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How to tell a story, and other essays [Kindle Edition]

Mark Twain
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Humorous Story an American Development. Its
Difference from Comic and Witty Stories.

I DO not claim that I can tell a story as it
ought to be told. I only claim to know how
a story ought to be told, for I have been al
most daily in the company of the most expert
story-tellers for many years.

There are several kinds of stories, but only
one difficult kind the humorous. I will talk
mainly about that one. The humorous story
is American, the comic story is English^the
witty story isJFrencrh The "humorous story
depends for its effect upon thfTmanner~oi the
telling; the comic story andjt
upon ihejngAcr.

The humorous story may be spun out to
great length, and may wander around as much
as it pleases, and arrive nowhere in partic
ular; but the comic and witty stories must
be brief and end with a point.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835 –1910), better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called "the Great American Novel", and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He apprenticed with a printer. He also worked as a typesetter and contributed articles to his older brother Orion's newspaper. After toiling as a printer in various cities, he became a master riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River, before heading west to join Orion. He was a failure at gold mining, so he next turned to journalism. While a reporter, he wrote a humorous story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which proved to be very popular and brought him nationwide attention. His travelogues were also well-received. Twain had found his calling. He achieved great success as a writer and public speaker. His wit and satire earned praise from critics and peers, and he was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty. However, he lacked financial acumen. Though he made a great deal of money from his writings and lectures, he squandered it on various ventures, in particular the Paige Compositor, and was forced to declare bankruptcy. With the help of Henry Huttleston Rogers, however, he eventually overcame his financial troubles. Twain worked hard to ensure that all of his creditors were paid in full, even though his bankruptcy had relieved him of the legal responsibility. Born during a visit by Halley's Comet, he died on its return. He was lauded as the "greatest American humorist of his age", and William Faulkner called Twain "the father of American literature".

Product Details

  • File Size: 402 KB
  • Print Length: 48 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00413QO8O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,816,205 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mark Twain extras June 15, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes (Baby Board Books)

American writer Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain has given us some literary gems with Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and his travel adventures in nineteenth-century Europe and to Australia and New Zealand. Here is is discussing telling rather than writing a story.

Humour, he says, is American while comic is English and witty is French. He follows this typically brilliant essay with examples of story telling and some intriguing experiences of mental telegraphy.

Good on you Dodo Press for specialising in rare and out-of-print books.

Mark Twain devotees will want to add this slim volume to their collection.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the mouth of an American master April 26, 2010
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An entertaining read from on of America's treasured voices. I was particularly interested in the "How to Tell a Story" Essay and Mark Twain's lessons are just as relavent today. Kindle version was a welcome convenience and you can't beat the price!!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny essays and stories April 7, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Different editions of Twain's (1835-1910) writings contain different stories. This free book for amazon kindle users has five short essays and stories. Twain differentiates between humorous stories, which he says is an American invention, and comic stories, which he claims is English. There is also, he says, the witty story, which is French, but he does not discuss it in this volume. The humorous story depends on how it is told, the other two "on the matter."

The humorous story is told by word of mouth. It can go on and on with no apparent purpose other than to be funny. The joy is in the telling and it is an art to tell it well. He gives an example of a humorous story - The Wounded Soldier. He then gives an example of how a humorous story should be told - The Golden Arm. He shows by the dialect and by directions to the reader how it should be told. He emphasizes the importance of pauses and occasional noises just at the right time and with the right length.

Included in this volume is an essay telling of four incidences that he says happened to him. The title is Mental Telepathy Again. In each tale, another person who is far from him thinks something and he senses it. This essay is followed by The Invalid's Story. It is a very funny tale of how a healthy man became an invalid when he thought he was transporting the dead body of his friend to his parents when, because of a mix up, the crate contains guns and smelly limburger cheese.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Small Book in Length but Large in Enjoyment January 23, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In the primary essay in this small book, with more misdirection than modesty, Mark Twain starts by saying he does not claim to know how a story should be told but knows a good one when he hears one. Now he's talking about "humorous" stories, the kind Americans can tell, and not the comic or witty stories that Englishmen and Frenchmen tell. The mark of a good humorous story is in the art of its telling and not in the subject matter, as are those told by foreign storytellers. The beauty of this essay is that after aquainting the reader with the technique of telling a good American humorous story, he presents a sample that proves his opening disclaimer false, by telling such a story to perfection, and by giving the reader the illusion of hearing it told aloud on a stage, as he was noted for. Alas, it is a story told in dialect that probably cannot be read by some today for its humor, but I think there is a spirit in it that transcends today's objections and believe that all Americans can revel in the good humor of the mentality behind this story.

The other essays in this book are also good examples of the work of 19th century America's greatest storyteller and wit.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read February 13, 2013
By Bear
The book is only a few pages long. At first glance I'll admit, I felt chinced. Then, I began to read and understand why his work is considered American classic. (Knowing what I know now, I would've paid twice as much for this book). Twain's astounding wit comes through in this book as concentrated power with an organic and soulful feel. This book will take you on an albeit short, but magical journey through the culture of americana.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mark Twain Shares His Brilliance December 18, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Mark Twain shares his insights and humour in this brief set of stories. His mind continues to brighten our world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very fast read! January 2, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a short and fast read! If you like Mark Twain then you'll eat this up and be wanting more....if you haven't ever read Mark Twain, then this is a good place to start. I actually wish the "How to tell a story" portion was longer. However, I read "Following the Equator" and that fulfilled my need for more of Twain's witty stories and wisdom from the road (or on the sea as the case may be). Take a look if you just like literature in general, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Free fun December 22, 2010
By L. Tuff
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I picked this up to read on my new Kindle and thought it must be a poorly written story because it was free and I've never heard of it. It was an entertaining short read about how to tell stories properly with a few examples expertly illustrating Mark Twains ideal format. Free and fun.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
thank you have not read yet
Published 21 days ago by Mike Bastida
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Lovers of Mark Twain cannot miss this!
Published 1 month ago by Murts
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother
It's Boring. Too outdated for the 21st Century. Needs to be modernized. You may not agree, but I found this a waste of time, tedious.
Published 1 month ago by Stephen Holmes
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Almost anything by Twain is a joy to read.
Published 1 month ago by Bob Foxworth
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of my favorite authors....witty.
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A concise treatise on American storytelling
A good look at oral storytelling in the humorous vein. Well worth the read for the orator and listener alike.
Published 2 months ago by Hank Kuhfeldt
3.0 out of 5 stars Humor and Telepathy?
How to Tell a Story and Other Essays by Mark Twain is a short, quirky, and informative book that briefly discusses the mechanics of comedy and humorous storytelling. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lanise Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 3 months ago by Alan Gazey
5.0 out of 5 stars wow
So happy with purchase!!!!!!!!!!!!
Published 3 months ago by Leonard Aquilino
4.0 out of 5 stars Story telling
Shorter than I anticipated but thoughtfully worded like all of Mark Twains work. Didn't explain so much how to tell a story as did give examples of good ones.
Published 4 months ago by Philip
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More About the Author

Mark Twain (1835-1910) was an American humorist, satirist, social critic, lecturer and novelist. He is mostly remembered for his classic novels The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.


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