Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Complete Short Stories, Mark Twain

Why I read it: Western Canon

Podcasts: None

Brow: Although Twain is a supremely witty writer, the subject matter of these stories leaves them exactly in the middle.

Summary: 700 pages of Mark Twain's short stories. Some are very short, just a couple of pages, others are more like novellas and are nearly 100 pages. The earlier stories are light and funny, like 'The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County', but as Twain got older and more cynical, so do his stories, like 'The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg.'

What I liked about it: Much like myself, Twain was a natural skeptic with a sense of humour so dry it cracked in several places (cynical people might call us 'sarcastic'), and that comes out in his stories. It's also pretty clear that he was disgusted by the morality tales of his day, in which good little children are rewarded by the universe and bad little children are punished, as evidenced by 'The Story of the Bad Little Boy' and 'The Story of the Good Little Boy' in which the opposite happens. He also has the measure of human nature, with several tales of people and even entire towns corrupted by wealth or the promise thereof.

What I didn't like about it: Much as Twain might have disliked the sentimental morality tales of children, he wasn't above telling them about animals. 'A Horse's Tale' is a fable about a noble but abused horse and is the same sappy claptrap he was skewering in his stories about good children being punished.

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