Samuel Clemens still stuns in whatever form he chooses--the fable, the essay, the speech, sketch, or one-liner ("The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice."). This fine collection features several hilarious pieces, including a story in the early, lighter section by "Grandfather Twain"--about "a bad little boy, whose name was Jim--though, if you will notice, you will find that bad little boys are nearly always called James in your Sunday-school books.... He didn't have a sick mother either--a sick mother who was pious and had the consumption, and would be glad to lie down in the grave and be at rest, but for the strong love she bore her boy ..." In his later years, though parody and bleak humor abound, Twain extended his range from animal rights to anti-imperialism, from bitterness to despair. "To the Person Sitting in Darkness" remains a powerful, immediate indictment of America's colonial annexation of the Philippines. His suggested flag for the province? Just the usual one, "with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones."
About the Author
Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri, in 1835, and died at Redding, Connecticut in 1910. In his person and in his pursuits he was a man of extraordinary contrasts. Although he left school at twelve when his father died, he was eventually awarded honorary degrees from Yale University, the University of Missouri, and Oxford University. His career encompassed such varied occupations as printer, Mississippi riverboat pilot, journalist, travel writer, and publisher. He made fortunes from his writing but toward the end of his life he had to resort to lecture tours to pay his debts. He was hot-tempered, profane, and sentimental
and also pessimistic, cynical, and tortured by self-doubt. His nostalgia helped produce some of his best books. He lives in American letters as a great artist, the writer whom William Dean Howells called “the Lincoln of our literature.”
Tom Quirk is the Catherine Paine Middlebush Professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He is the editor of the Penguin Classics editions of Mark Twain's Tales, Speeches, Essays, and Sketches (1994) and Ambrose Bierce's Tales of Soldiers and Civilians and Other Stories (2000) and co-editor of The Portable American Realism Reader (1997). His other books include Coming to Grips with Huckleberry Finn (1993), Mark Twain: A Study of the Short Fiction (1997) and Nothing Abstract: Investigations in the American Literary Imagination (2001).