Mark Twain spent about 12 years of his life outside the United States, traveling the world and writing about it–and Roy Morris Jr. describes these adventures in American Vandal: Mark Twain Abroad.Bookmonger John Miller American Vandal Mark Twain Abroad

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Morris says that Twain was best known in his own time as a journalist and travel writer, not a novelist. He developed a low opinion of Europe and the Holy Land and enjoyed a good French joke as much as the rest of us.

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  1. Byron Horatio Inactive
    Byron Horatio
    @ByronHoratio

    I don’t think I have ever laughed as much out loud as when I read “Innocents Abroad.”

    Unfortunately Twain is better known by young people for “Huckleberry Finn,”, which I always found paled in comparison to the far more humorous and profound “Connecticut Yankee” and “Innocents.”

    • #1
  2. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    I just finished reading the major Twain stuff in order from Innocents Abroad thru Following the Equator.  The five travelogues are all great reads…some really funny stuff…but, if I had to pick one, Roughing It would just edge out three others with Equator, while still an excellent book, trailing the pack.

    Strangely, perhaps, Joan of Arc may have been my favorite of them all.

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  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    philo:I just finished reading the major Twain stuff in order from Innocents Abroad thru Following the Equator. The five travelogues are all great reads…some really funny stuff…but, if I had to pick one, Roughing It would just edge out three others with Equator, while still an excellent book, trailing the pack.

    Strangely, perhaps, Joan of Arc may have been my favorite of them all.

    Ah, but philo, there are true gems in Following the Equator.

    I believe that in India “cold weather” is merely a conventional phrase and has come into use through the necessity of having some way to distinguish between weather which would melt a brass door knob and weather which will only make it mushy.

    – Mark Twain, Following the Equator

    and

    My own luck has been curious all my literary life; I never could tell a lie that anybody would doubt, nor a truth that anybody would believe.

    – ibid

    • #3
  4. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Percival – …there are true gems in Following the Equator.

    Excellent…and yes, there are gems throughout…and I have pages of notes to direct me to my favorites in each. But I will spare you…mostly.

    From Equator:

    The government chooses to do its railway business in its own way, and it doesn’t know as much about it as the French.  In the beginning they tried idiots; then they imported the French – which was going backwards, you see; now it runs the roads itself – which is going backwards again…

    …and:

    It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress. – Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar.

    …one more, then I’ll stop:

    There is a story, which may not be true, about an ignorant Boer farmer there who thought that this white flag was the national flag of England.  He has been at Bronkhorst, and Laing’s Nek, and Ingogo and Amajuba, and supposed that the English did not run up their flag except at the end of a fight.

    OK, one from Roughing It:

    The government of my country snubs honest simplicity, but fondles artistic villainy, and I think I might have developed into a very capable pickpocket if I had remained in the public service a year or two.

    • #4
  5. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Percival,

    Now that I look back over my notes, there is so much good and funny stuff in all of them that it would be really hard to justify my rankings above.  All I can say is that as I read through the series I seemed to notice some changes…maybe not as subtle as I think…but there was something just a bit more to my taste with the humor in Innocents and Roughing It.

    The best way I can explain it at this hour is: Dennis Miller.  If you are old enough to remember his late 80s stand up stuff and compare it to today – all of it is extremely funny (to me) but there was something just a little more magical back then (again, to me).  Just a matter of personal taste, I guess.

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  6. Belt Inactive
    Belt
    @Belt

    I think I’ve read everything ever published by Clemens, and a few things that he didn’t.  Much of it I re-read every so often.

    Morris mentions in the interview at one point that Twain’s vision of humanity grew darker as he got older.  I think that’s true, and once upon a time I mentioned to an English professor that I thought Twain was essentially pessimistic.  She responded that a real pessimist wouldn’t bother writing and communicating his thoughts in the first place.

    Certainly Twain wasn’t too interested in orthodoxy (though he still adhered to a certain propriety).  All of his writing adopts the perspective of an outsider looking in, and he thought he was smarter than the insiders.  He had an affection for the rebel and the outsider, whether that be Huck Finn, or the Innocents, the Devil himself.  In religion, I think he would be classified as a pantheist or maybe a ‘panentheist,’ and possibly some sort of universalist to boot.

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  7. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @Manny

    In my opinion, Twain was a great prose stylist and a good observer of the scene around him, but a bit lacking as a novelist.  Huck Finn being is his one great fiction work, but the rest are rather ordinary at best.  I think he was best suited for non-fiction work, and I read Life on the Mississippi las year and thought it great.

    • #7
  8. JimGoneWild Coolidge
    JimGoneWild
    @JimGoneWild

    No scrub on his book, but Roy Morris is not funny and should not do interviews except by print. Miller threw him some beautiful slow hanging curve balls to smash out of the stadium and he bunted.

    • #8