Twain was a master of virtually every prose genre; in fables and stories, speeches and essays, he skillfully adapted, extended, or satirized literary conventions, guided only by his unruly imagination. From the comic wit that sparkles in maxims from Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar, to the parodic perfection of An Awful-Terrible Medieval Romance, to the satirical delights of The Innocents Abroad and Roughing It; from the warm nostalgia of Early Days to the bitter, brooding tone of The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg to the anti-imperial vehemence of To the Person Sitting in the Darkness and the poignant grief expressed in Death of Jean, Twain emerges in this volume in many guises, all touched by genius.
These short fiction and prose pieces display the variety of Twain's imaginative invention, his diverse talents, and his extraordinary emotional range. Twain was a master of virtually every prose genre; in fables and stories, speeches and essays, he skilfully adapted, extended or satirized literary conventions, guided only by his unruly imagination. From the comic wit that sparkles in maxims from 'Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar,' to the parodic perfection of 'An Awful - Terrible Medieval Romance,' to the satirical delights of The Innocents Abroad and Roughing It; from the warm nostalgia of 'Early Days' to the bitter, brooding tone of 'The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg' to the anti-imperial vehemence of 'To the Person Sitting in the Darkness' and the poignant grief expressed in 'Death of Jean', Twain emerges in this volume in many guises, all touched by genius.
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).
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