Top positive review
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Half a Great Book and all Valuable
on July 5, 2014
I've long been an admirer of Mark Twain. Few writers reveal as much of themselves in their work as does Samuel Clemens (Twain). For me, he embodies the American spirit and character in a way that few others do; and "Life on the Mississippi" is Twain at the top of his game. He's a genius at dialogue, recognizes and enjoys the pretensions of people; and will not tolerate hypocrisy. His story-telling technique is wonderful, and he can be very funny. Having said that, Twain's writing can also be uneven, and sometimes a passage of utter beauty can be followed by drivel. That's Twain.
I've read that when "Life on the Mississippi" was submitted for publication, Twain's editors thought it was too short, so sent the writer on a trip down the River to reflect on the changes since he had lived there. Twain is Twain, so reading that part of the book is not unpleasant, but it is really just a travel piece that does not begin to rise to the levels of his earlier reflections. Even so, Twain seemed to be aware that he was writing the story of a time and place that was rapidly disappearing; and in that I think he was correct. "Life on the Mississippi" stands as a valuable snapshot of a time, place, and writer that are no more.