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The Bible According to Mark Twain: Irreverent Writings on Eden, Heaven, and the Flood by America's Master Satirist Paperback – December 6, 1996

4.4 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

This volume collects the most important writings by Mark Twain in which he used biblical settings, themes, and figures. Featuring Twain's singular portrayals of God, Adam, Eve, Satan, Methuselah, Shem, St. Peter, and others, the writings stand among Twain's most imaginative expressions of his views on human nature and humankind's relation to the Creator and the universe. Composed over four decades (1871-1910), the writings range from farce to fantasy to satire, each one bearing the mark of Twain's unmistakable wit and insight. Among the many delights in store for readers are Adam and Eve's divergent accounts of their domestic troubles; Methuselah's discussion of an ancient version of baseball, complete with a parody of baseball jargon; Shem's hand-wringing account of how material shortages and labor troubles were hampering the progress of the ark his father, Noah, was building; a description of the disruptive actions of the fire-and-brimstone evangelist Sam Jones upon arriving in heaven; Captain Stormfield's revelations of what heaven is really like; Satan's musings on our puerile concepts of the afterlife; and Twain's advice on how to dress and tip properly in heaven. Twain's humor, however, is never gratuitous. As readers laugh their way through this volume, they will find ample evidence of Twain's concerns about scriptural fallacies and inconsistencies, the Bible's rather flat portrayal of important characters, and our limited notions about the nature and meaning of our own - and God's - existence. Many of the pieces in this collection, even the most light-hearted, might still be considered controversial; of some of the darker pieces, Twain himself acknowledged that they would beheretical in any age. Moreover, these writings are valuable cultural artifacts of a time when, across the Western world, fundamental religious beliefs were being called into question by the precepts of Darwinism and the rapid advances of science and technology. Several of this volume's selections are previously unpublished; others, like Letters from the Earth, are classics. Virtually all have been newly edited to reflect as closely as possible Twain's final intentions for their form and content. For serious Twain devotees, editors Howard G. Baetzhold and Joseph B. McCullough have supplied an abundance of background material on the writings, including details on the history of their composition, publication, and relevance to the Twain canon. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Howard G. Baetzhold is Rebecca Clifton Reade Professor of English Emeritus at Butler University in Indianapolis and John S. Tuckey Memorial Research Fellow at Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies at Quarry Farm. An advisory board member and contributor to the "Mark Twain Encyclopedia," he is currently an editor of "Tales and Sketches of the Middle Years" and "Tales and Sketches of the Later Years" for the Mark Twain Project. Joseph B. McCullough is Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In addition to a number of articles on Mark Twain, he is the author of "Hamlin Garland," and editor of "Hamlin Garland's Tales of the Middle Border" and "Hamlin Garland's Son of the Middle Border." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (December 6, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684824396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684824390
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In the decades since his death, many of Mark Twain's writings have been reorganized into common themes such as protests, speeches, short stories and sketches, and full works of fiction in larger volumes. A recent welcome addition to these is The Bible According to Mark Twain, which includes diaries of Adam, Eve, and other Old Testament characters, various speculations on what the imaginary Heaven might be like (including Captain Stormfield's), some autobiographical dictations, a few pieces that appear in print for the first time, and, of course, Letters From the Earth.
It also contains too many of the editor's notes that plague most of Twain's posthumous releases. Here, notes take up 50 of the book's first 260 pages (10 more are blank). Why do editors feel compelled to insert their version of Twain's autobiography before every entry? If they must share this information with readers, they can do so at the start or the end of the book, without interrupting Twain's far superior writing. Granted, some of the details are worth knowing: Twain read Paine's Age of Reason while piloting riverboats. This helped shape his views toward Christianity. But other statements are extremely irritating: "...we have omitted the five-and-a-half page attack on the concept of the virgin birth (mistakenly referred to as the immaculate conception) because that discussion is not closely related to the writings in this volume." Yes it is! Claims like this make me wonder what else is missing. The rest of Twain's writings on religion need a book of their own, WITHOUT the gratuitous editorial comments.
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Format: Paperback
Mark Twain promptly proves with this volume that he is, indeed, as the title states, "America's Master Satirist." Having grown up in a fundamentalist Presbyterian community, Twain knew his Bible well; and, like any thinking person, his beliefs and attitudes relating to it changed as he grew older, wiser, and more experienced. Although Twain - due to many factors, such as the death of several children and his wife and his failed investments - grew famously bitter towards the end of his life, his vision remained remarkably clear-headed, though clearly suffued with pessimism - indeed, his zest for the truth and absolute intolerance for mankind's accepted irrational beliefs became even more razor-sharp during this period. Although there are writings in this volume from all phases of Mark Twain's career, the majority of them do come from that latter period - a period in which, indeed, the exploration of these themes was the main facet of his writing. Included are such well-known items as the Diaries of Adam and Eve (as well as several other Old Testament characters), Captain Stormfield's Visit To Heaven (published here in full for the first time ever), and, of course, his masterpiece, Letters From The Earth. In these, and the other, oftentimes more obscure pieces, Twain burlesques and satarizes freely, calling mankind on both his steadfast taking to irrational and illogical beliefs, as well as on his sheer stupidity and gullibility. If one is looking for a satire along the lines of Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, then this is DEFINITELY not the place to look; however, if you have a fondness, as I do, for the darker, more probing side of Twain, then this is a volume that you must most definitely pick up.
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Format: Paperback
The Bible According to Mark Twain gathers together a group of writings by the famous author that were either published years ago or not at all. The writings all deal with Mark Twain's intense study and understanding of the Bible. The book begins with some humorous ideas of what Adam's and Eve's diaries may have looked like during their first days together and then later after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Twain is unable to comprehend how they could be punished for doing something bad (eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge) when they still had no conception of good and bad until they ate the apple. Later works detail some thoughts on Noah and the flood and the importance of flies. It was important to preserve the disease carriers. When Twain takes a walk through Heaven you discover halos, harps, and wings are just for show. And finally he finishes up with a scathing attack on the stupidity of mankind, pointing out that statements like, Thou Shall Not Kill, and committing genocide do not go together. Or how could man conceive of a Heaven as Heaven and leave out sexual intercourse? If sanity is dangerous to your health, don't read this book.
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Format: Paperback
In this book Mark Twain aims his satire at favorite stories from the Old Testament. He worked on these essays for most of his life but was afraid their irreverent nature would damage his career, therefore, he just kept re-writing and re-editing them. Most of them were not published until after his death and for some this is their introduction.

Adam and Eve, in their diaries, present bittersweet divergent stories of their dysfunctional relationship. Their accounts could be prototypes from a marriage counsellor's office, or short versions of "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus."

Captain Stormfield has a dream about ending up in Heaven when he thought he was going to the other place. "He was deeply religious, by nature and by the training of his mother, and a fluent swearer by the training of his father." In this original and inventive story, we learn all those things about heaven that were left out of the Bible - but would be included in an imaginary book, "How to experience Heaven in six weeks on $10 a day."

An "Etiquette in the Afterlife" excerpt: "Do not try to show off. St. Peter dislikes it. The simpler you are dressed, the better it will please him. Above all things, avoid overdressing. A pair of spurs and a fig-leaf is plenty...leave your dog outside. Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay outside and the dog would go in."

In the masterpiece, "Letters From The Earth," Satan has been temporarily expelled from heaven and is wandering around the universe. On a lark, he decides to visit earth, an outlying little spot in an outlying galaxy that God had once played around with for a few days.
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