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Roughing It (Dover Books on Literature & Drama) Paperback – June 27, 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 334 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There is no nicer surprise for a reader than to discover that an acknowledged classic really does deliver the goods. Mark Twain's Roughing It is just such a book. The adventure tale is a delight from start to finish and is just as engrossing today as it was 125 years ago when it first appeared.

Roughing It tells the true-ish escapades of Twain in the American West. Although he clearly "speaks with forked tongue," Roughing It is informative as well as humorous. From stagecoach travel to the etiquette of prospecting, the modern reader gains considerable insight into that much-fictionalized time and place. Do you know about sagebrush, for example?

Sage-brush is very fair fuel, but as a vegetable it is a distinguished failure. Nothing can abide the taste of it but the jackass and his illegitimate child, the mule. But their testimony to its nutritiousness is worth nothing, for they will eat pine knots, or anthracite coal, or brass filings, or lead pipe, or old bottles, or anything that comes handy, and then go off looking as grateful as if they had had oysters for dinner.
Roughing It is informally structured around the narrator's attempts to strike it rich. He meets a motley, colorful crew in the process; many mishaps occur, and it shouldn't surprise you that Twain does not emerge a man of means. But he withstands it all in such a relentless good humor that his misfortune inspires laughter. Roughing It is wonderful entertainment and reminds you how funny the world can be--even its grimmer districts--when you're traveling with the right writer. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Library Journal

In this 1872, Twain reminisces about his five years of roaming around the country from 1861 to 1866. This edition contains the complete original text plus the original illustrations. Though pricey, this volume should be considered for collections specializing in Twain.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Books on Literature & Drama
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (June 27, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486427048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486427041
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (334 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #417,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Matthew Taylor on August 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
The genius of Mark Twain is that his work is still enjoyable, and funny, to this day. This book, originally published in 1871, is Twain's account of his journey from Missouri to Hawaii (called the Sandwich Islands in his day). He tells story after story of his adventures along the way, starting with the stagecoach ride on the Overland Stage Line to Carson City, Nevada, around 1861, and then telling of his stay in Nevada, then California, then his visit to Hawaii. The stories are informative, humorous, and all-around entertaining. He lampoons everybody he can--nobody is safe--including miners, pioneers (emigrants), politicians, Mormons, Blacks, American Indians, Chinese, newspaper reporters, "desperados", even himself on more than one occasion. Sometimes his stories are so outrageous that you wonder how much is true and how much is embellishment, or just outright fiction. Even he understands this by telling the reader on occasion that he has not made up a particular story, to demonstrate that truth is often stranger than fiction, but also to imply that he has taken liberties in other places in the book. (I wonder if the Mormon Church has ever banned this book for the things he says about them.) Even while he is being irreverent, however, he often demonstrates a sensitivity toward people, with an awareness of the situation of others that seems to me to be ahead of his time. For example, he has a chapter on the immigrant Chinese population in the West, and while he pokes fun at them in some respects, he spends the time detailing their lives and culture, as much as he could understand it, with a respect that was uncommon in his day.Read more ›
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By G L Nelson on September 17, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This "Mark Twain Project" paperback edition of ROUGHING IT is by far the best version for most readers. It is an excellent value. The 200 pages of "Explanatory Notes" at the end, add greatly to the modern reader's understanding of the 1860's "Wild West". The Early Western Mining Frontier comes vividly and colorfully to life, thanks to the Explanatory Notes' full illumination of the fascinating, often hilarious, eyewitness account of young Sam Clemens.

The 21st century reader now sees the momentous impact of Samuel Colt's "Navy Revolver" on frontier society, fully comprehends a "Stamp Mill's" importance to the silver mines of the Comstock Lode, and is in complete agreement about the "thoroughbrace's" necessity to the Overland Stage traveler's comfort! This edition also contains all 304 first edition illustrations, another great aid allowing the modern reader to take a virtual walk into a vanished time.

In the "Foreword" to this edition, Editor Harriet Elinor Smith notes, " The vernacular style of ROUGHING IT often seems surprisingly fresh to modern readers.....". I'm betting that many readers, younger ones especially, may approach this book with dread, only to become immersed in the rollicking adventure, and reach the end of ROUGHING IT with regret. The readers who return for a second, third or more reading, will discover many levels of depth to ROUGHING IT that will continue to entertain and educate reading after reading, year after year.

From the "Foreword" to this edition, Editor Smith also observes, "Although readers have long been entertained by ROUGHING IT, it has gradually become part of all serious study of American culture.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Twain is a storyteller in the old-fashioned sense of the word. He spins his tales, weaves his lies, and draws us in with the skill of a magician. Dividing fact from fiction is not always easy in a work such as this. "Roughing It" has moments of obvious hyperbole, grounded by stories of true difficulty. Yet throughout, Twain finds a way to make us smile, even laugh out loud. We are amused by the eccentric characters and turns of events which he describe, and find that we are not so far different as we might like to think.
The story follows Twain's journey as he travels west by stagecoach, train, wagon, horse, and ship. He meets surly frontiersmen, murderers, thieves, fortune-hunters, and men of ill-repute. Even here, he finds the good beneath the dirt. I especially enjoyed his anecdote of Scotty Briggs, a man trying to hire a minister to attend over his friend's funeral. Hilarious stuff! And so true to human nature.
Throughout his account, Twain makes a habit of degrading his own work ethic, nudging us in the ribs as he highlights his aversion to labor. With this in mind, the title seems to be a tongue-in-cheek affair. In fact, I found his accounts much less rustic and more modern than expected. Sure, we can travel across the U.S. quicker these days, but the politics and economics of Twain's age parallel our own. Will we never learn? Isn't this the point of history, to avoid repeating our errors?
Although criticized in his day for using coarse language and a working-class, Twain held to his guns and gave us some magnificent humor with which to swallow his pointed barbs. He was a master satirist, and even in a travelogue such as this, his views shine through. And thank goodness! A century and a half later, I'm thankful for his insights.
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