Believe it or not, I read this entire 100+year-old book in my car while waiting for my daughter and my son in school parking lots. What a perfectly ironic way to read a soaring imaginary adventure written by Mark Twain and mostly forgotten about by the American reading public.
My copy of this old book is a 1965 edition published for school libraries of a book written in 1894. It tells the story of how Tom and Huck and Jim steal a ride on a balloon at a town fair from a somewhat mentally unhinged professor of aeronautical science. The balloon, which has space-age travel capabilities due to the professor’s insane genius, takes them on an accidental voyage to Africa.
Of course, the insane professor intends to kill them all, because that’s what insane geniuses do after they prove how genius-y they really are. But as he tries to throw Tom into the Atlantic, he only manages to plunge himself through the sky and down to an unseen fate. The result being a great adventure for the three friends in the sands of the Sahara. They face man-eating lions, mummy-making sandstorms, and a chance to land on the head of the Sphinx.
The entire purpose of this book is to demonstrate Twain’s ability to be a satirical stretcher of the truth, telling jokes and lies through the unreliable narrator’s voice of Huck Finn.
Here is a quoted passage from the book to fill up this review with words and maybe explain just a bit what Twain is really doing with this book;
Notice how I doubled my word count there without typing any of the words myself? Isn’t the modern age wonderful?
But there you have it. This book is about escaping every-day newspaper worries. In a time of Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, global warming, and renewed threats of thermonuclear boo-boos with Russia, this proved to be the perfect book to float away with on an imaginary balloon to Africa. And the book ends in a flash when Aunt Polly back in Hannibal wants Tom back in time for breakfast. I really needed to read this book when I picked it up to read it.
326 and Counting
Twice before I have gone through a year posting something on this blog every single day of the year. And not just by scheduling the publication wisely to cover every day, but by writing something and publishing something every single day. At this point, I have now written something and posted it for 326 days in a row, and being past the holidays and funeral for my mother, I am probably going to make 365 again for the third time.
This is a man who also wrote something every single day. He was a former journalist who worked as an ambulance driver during World War I, for the Italian Army, where he was wounded and won a medal for his service to the Italian government.
He developed a writing style with no author commentary, sparse but crucial details, and a reliance on the reader’s intelligence to figure out the themes of his writing.
His best work is the Novel, The Sun Also Rises.
I hold that opinion because I have not only read it, but I have also read and compared it to For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, A Farewell to Arms, and several of his short stories. His writing is fiction, but highly autobiographical which makes his stories so realistic and accessible to all readers.
This is also a man who wrote every single day. He started out writing for newspapers, but starting with his first major success as a fiction storyteller, The Pickwick Papers, he began writing mostly comic stories for monthly magazines.
He is noted for long paragraphs of vivid and plentiful details, and especially relatable and memorable characters.
His best work is the novel, A Tale of Two Cities.
I make that judgement after reading it three times, and also reading Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, David Copperfield, and The Old Curiosity Shop. There are also autobiographical features in the Boz’s works but he was a wonderfully astute people-watcher, and that dominates his narratives far more than his own personal story does.
This writer is known particularly for his sense of humor. It should be mentioned, however, that his fiction is not only filled with humor, but was very keenly realistic. His use of author commentary probably makes him the opposite of Hemingway, but he still carries that journalistic quality of writing it exactly how he sees it… full of irony and irrationally-arrived-at truth.
I don’t know for a fact that he wrote every single day. But he probably did. He always said, “The writing of the literary greats is like fine wine, while my books are like water. WIne is good for those that can afford it, but everybody drinks water.” You can’t have writing that is as plentiful as water without writing fairly often.
His best book is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I am not the only one who thinks so. Hemingway wrote, “All American Literature began with one book, Huckleberry Finn.”
I have also read, Tom Sawyer, Pudd’nhead Wilson, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Roughing It, and The Autobiography of Mark Twain.
So, what’s the point of all this literary foo-foo? Hemingway would expect you to figure that out for yourself. But I’m addicted to topic sentences, even if I wait til the end to reveal it. If you want to be a writer, you need to read a lot of really good writing. And even more important, you need to write every day.
Filed under artists I admire, commentary, Mark Twain, novel writing, strange and wonderful ideas about life, writing, writing humor, writing teacher