43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2001
This is the kind of book reserved for the word "volume" and by that I mean it carries all the weight of Twain's most accessible works. All of the Library of America books carry this weight but this was one of the first and deservedly so. I'm reviewing this book not just on its contents but on its sheer style and scholarly editing, its fitness in the hand (or lap), the way it will look on your bookshelf and the 10-point Linotron Galliard printing that makes the very act of reading much easier.
Now, the contents cannot be less magnificent as the river all these writings have in common. Funny, wise and as much a part of 19th century American history as you'll find anywhere, these are great examples of the best American writing in one "volume" by one of the world's most recognized authors. No self-respecting booklover should be without it.
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2003
I doubt that anyone reading these reviews is trying to decide whether or not they will enjoy reading the stories in this volume - most likely they've read them already and want to know if this is an edition worth buying. This is definitely worth buying. The printing is crisp. The paper is lightweight, smooth-surfaced, and acid-free; over 1100 pages are only 1 and 1/8 inches thick. The dimensions are perfect. The binding appears to be strong yet limber - the book opens easily with good visualization of all margins. Library of America, the publishers, seems dedicated not only to preserving American writings, but doing so with style. I plan to put more of their books on my wish list - Melville and Hawthorne perhaps. My only regret is that I already own the complete writing of Poe from another publisher.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2008
After reading a Time Magazine article on the 100th anniversary of Mark Twain's death, I ordered Mississippi Writings out of curiosity and to see how much I would remember from reading these stories as a child. I was not disappointed. His writing is contemporary, the language is typical of his day (so don't be offended), and I was reminded again of how he really started the modern novel. Although I knew how the stories would turn out, I had forgotten a lot of the details that had enthralled me when I read it the first time so many years ago, and when I put myself in Tom's place and wished I had a friend like Huck. This is a nice package that provides an insight into life along the Mississippi in the early days and will provide a fishing bucket full of nostalgia.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2008
Pudd'nhead Wilson is, in my opinion, Mark Twain's most underappreciated book. It's a "mystery" in structure, so I don't intend to summarize the story at all. It's also Twain's most powerful assessment of the effects of slavery and racism in America, but once again I don't want to spoil the development except to say that Twain "felt" the horrors of Jim Crow more than any other white intellectual of his era.
Twain has been demonized in some places because of his use of language in Huckleberry Finn and other books, which would be considered hateful and racist today. Well, friends, it was hateful and racist in Twain's time also, and Twain consistently uses it in such a way that its insensitivity and hatefulness is revealed. Huckleberry Finn is not a book aimed at children; it's rowdy and complex and it requires a kind of detachment that only a mature frontal cortex can manage. What makes HF such a great book is precisely the reliance and friendship that evolves between the runaway white boy and the runaway slave. No other book before Twain portrayed such an intimacy.
I have a personal "investment" in Pudd'nhead Wilson, the character, which I needn't explain, except to say that large numbers of African-Americans and European-Americans might find themselves equally invested by the miracle of DNA testing.
This Library of America publication is first-rate. If you haven't read Huckleberry Finn at least twice in your life, you ought to read it now. And if you haven't read Pudd'nhead Wilson, you'll be both entertained and stimulated by it.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2011
The book itself is very nice. Perfect size, good quality paper, printing size and style is very readable. Nothing can be said about Mark Twain's writing that hasn't already been said many times over. This little book is a perfect addition to your home library.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Once they were absolute rulers - laws made to meet their needs, unstinting respect their due, their commands obeyed without hesitation or reluctance. They are vanished today, the last of their lineage in tourist boats, unremarked, nearly unremembered. Nearly two centuries ago, the Mississippi steamboat pilot was a legendary figure. Mark Twain conveys us to that time and environment in one of his finest writings. Life On the Mississippi is a superb descriptive achievement in portraying the river scene , but also conveys vivid images of the people living on and along it. It's an outstanding example of painting with both a broad brush and enhancing with fine detail.
Beginning with a history of European "discovery" and exploration of this mighty stream, Twain moves us into his own history as a "cub" pilot. Perhaps no-one before or since has so effectively exposed what it meant to "tackle the river" in learning to safely man the wheel of a river steamer. From his first astonishment at discovering he must "get a notebook and write down" the names of all the points, landmarks, snags and "crossings" through the realization that most of that information would change before his next trip, he comes to understand that a pilot must "know the river" with full dedication. As we follow him through the process he introduces us to the river's wonders and the people it supports. He explains the ranking of pilots, steamboat captains, mates and "hands." None of his observations are boring, from the most mundane river condition to dramatic events such as boiler explosions.
Those fearing that Twain's information may be "outdated" may take heart. Much of the book views his early days on the river from the vantage point of thirty years later. He is reminiscing, but Twain's excellent style brings us with him into each memory. Our feelings readily align with his as he guides us. The latter part of the book is a collection of images of the river valley in the latter part of the 19th Century as Twain revisits the river after a long absence. The only real distinction, apart from the automobile, which did for the railroad what the latter did to the steamboat, are the statistics of agriculture and industry. His descriptions of towns, villages and cities differ little from what we might encounter duplicating his journey.
During this pilgrimage, Twain brings in numerous anecdotal episodes to further sparkle his descriptive and historical accounts. Although all are entertaining at one level or another, several stand out as representatives of Twain's inventive genius. Ritter's Narrative is among the grimmest of Twain's essays in any of his publications. It's a story of a long-term quest for vengeance with a bizarre outcome. A far lighter note is struck with the story of a sleepwalking steamboat pilot. An account of the pilots organizing a "protective association" is told with light humour, not quite obscuring the serious nature of its intent.
In all, no matter that this book's focus lies in a period stretching back nearly two centuries, the writing is vigorous enough to capture today's readers. The history is related with Twain's always lively skill, something as mundane as a sunset is imparted with his special verve. This book can be taken up repeatedly; for reminders of a lost era, for an examination of values or, the best reason of all, for a prime example of what North America's greatest writer could produce in his passion for narrative.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2014
I now have several of these Library of America volumes and I love them. This one is no different. They are beautifully bound in various colors of fabric (uniform colored dust covers) with matching ribbon book mark. The binding is solid and durable. The pages are of a fine quality, print is a nice font. The collections within each volume are logical, complimentary, and often comprehensive of a particular author's type of work (e.g. collected poems, essays). These original works were written in english, so translation is not an issue. Editting has been accurate. As these are the works of the original authors, the true value of these volumes are in the works collected and the presentation. For any price, you could not be more pleased. However, because they are so well made, you can find excellent condition used versions for unbelievable prices. If you purchase books to own for your personal library, these will be a treasure on so many levels.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2013
Book arrived timely and in excellent condition. Includes four of Twain's writings, is well put together, and is reasonably priced. It met all of my expectations.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2014
Huckleberry Finn is the supreme creation of American fiction;
Tom Sawyer is close behind;
and this Library of America volume is to be cherished.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The eleven- hundred pages of this volume contain a tremendous amount of literary enjoyment. They contain the truly greatest Twain, Huckleberry Finn and its companion, Tom Sawyer. There is also the picture of that other world, the life on the river the autobiographical 'Life on the Mississippi'. I have never been a great fan of Puddinhead Wilson but others think otherwise. Twain is as everyone knows America's greatest writer of humor, but also its great explorer of hidden mysteries of character, and intricacies of the American landscape and language. A great character himself he was great too in the creation of unforgettable literary characters.
For the person who has space in their home and loves the solid feel of the real book, this volume is a treasure.