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Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii Paperback – July 1, 1975
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
"The unmistakable touch of [Twain's] comic genius can be seen, that sly alternation of hyperbole and deadpan understatement." -- The Wall Street Journal
"Twain's powers of observation and description are unsurpassed...a vivid picture of the life and scenery of these lovely islands." --Saturday Review
Top Customer Reviews
I would recommend this book to those interested in early Hawaiian, or even California, history and those who would enjoy some early Mark Twain.Read more ›
The young Mark Twain is a character I hadn't met before. He was fresh from the goldfields and San Francisco -- and was fascinated by the beauty and grace of Hawaiian life. He wasn't Politicaly Correct in his view of the Native Peoples, but then - - seeing them as equals was not thinkable in the 1860s.
Nevertheless, his descriptions of songs, dances, chants, and especially hula are a valuable view of the authentic artistry. I have always questioned if hula and chants had become distorted during their periods of banishment by the Missionaries. I feared that what I saw at festivals today had been corrupted and "interpreted" by today's cultural masters.
Not to worry. What Twain described seems to be identical to what I see and hear today. The arts may have gone underground, but they were tended and cherished by genius.
A culture is termed "wealthy" if it has enough leisure time to develop a high art. By these terms, the Haida of the Pacific Northwest and the Native Hawaiians were as wealthy as any Aztec. They just didn't have metal to work with, and didn't need it, actually.
Twain went to visit Kilauea Volcano, then, as now, in eruption.
His enjoyment of social events, both high and low, make his stay in the islands what every traveller dreams of. He was enchanted.
Usually I pass on used books; but this one is a keeper.
Beverly in Honolulu
Letters from Hawaii provides a fascinating look at 19th century Hawaii -- the people, royalty, customs, culture, neighborhoods, infrastructure, commerce, government, volcanos, valleys, beaches, sea -- as well as a sprinkling of Mark Twain's inimitable humor. History buffs and Hawaiiana buffs will find Twain's first-hand, boots-on-the-ground observations of 19th century Hawaii uniquely satisfying.
I found almost every dispatch riveting. One that comes to mind now as I write this mini review is Mark Twain's account of his visit to the active volcano, Kilauea, on the Big Island, which he viewed both during the daytime and at night. In addition to Twain's powerful visual imagery describing the lava flows, he also interestingly describes the sounds of the volcano. "It makes three distinct sounds - a rushing, a hissing, and a coughing or puffing sound; and if you stand on the brink and close your eyes it is no trick at all to imagine that you are sweeping down a river on a large low pressure steamer, and that you hear the hissing of the steam about her boilers, the puffing from her escape pipes and the churning rush of the water abaft her wheels. The smell of sulfur is strong, but not unpleasant to a sinner."
Whether you are a Mark Twain buff, history buff, travel story buff, kama'aina or a malihini, chances are you will find this book enjoyable.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Bought this for a fellow Mark Twain fan. First time I read it was on the Big Island as my intro to Hawaiian history back in the early 80's. Still go back to read favorite parts.Published 10 months ago by mary badeen
His writing style is interesting, but the book seemed pretty long. It was truly a collection of letters, not a story.Published 14 months ago by ch
Great read, even if the author embellishes a bit here and there. A great read if you are thinking of a trip to Hawaii.Published 18 months ago by Over 65 in Texas
In 1866, Mark Twain, working for the Sacramento Union, travelled to what was then known as the Sandwich Islands, and from there wrote back to the newspaper a series of letters... Read morePublished on November 20, 2013 by Dan'l Danehy-Oakes
I was told about this book on my way to the Big Island of Hawaii. It was recommended as it explained a lot about the Island and it was written by Mark Twain. Read morePublished on September 9, 2013 by Amazon Customer
Good informative book...Mark Twain is one of my favorite writters and historians.
His explanation of the Hawaii people was perfect... Read more
I'm a "late" college graduate who completed my English degree in 2010 during my 70th year of life. Read morePublished on January 20, 2013 by Joan Kehaulani Schmidt