During a recent trip to Iowa I couldn’t resist stopping in Hannibal, MO on the way home. Mark Twain’s hometown includes a slew of monuments and museums dedicated to his work. In the Mark Twain museum there is a gallery of Norman Rockwell illustrations of his books, sculptures of Twain, some of his books and clothing, etc.
The street where Twain grew up is preserved for visitors. It includes his childhood home, his father’s law office and even a statue of Tom and Huck. It was a literary treat to see it all, though I couldn’t help but wonder what witty comment Mark Twain would have about it.
Roughing It by Mark Twain
I had high hopes for this one, but I found that most of it lacked Twain’s incomparable wit. Much of it is a straight forward description of Twain’s travels out west in his youth during the mid-1800s. He traveled all over the west, even out to Hawaii. He describes gold and silver mining and the wild west in detail and has some incredibly strong feelings of dislike for Mormons.
There were bits in the second half that I enjoyed more that the first half. Apparently the first half is based on this brother’s journals of the trip (I didn’t find that out until I’d finished the book) and that would explain why it comes across and a bit dull. If you can make it through those bits it picks up and fans will recognize Twain’s clever style. I loved his description of attempting to work as an editor. He has the job for only seven days before quitting. He decided it was much too hard to come up with something new to write about each day.
Twain’s anecdotes about his travels are wonderful. I particularly loved a story about planning his first public lecture. He was so nervous he took every possible precaution to ensure he would receive some laughs.
BOTTOM LINE: I would recommend only if you are a huge Mark Twain fan or if you love reading about the development of the west. Otherwise I would highly recommend most of Twain’s other work, including Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, Prince and the Pauper, etc.
Photos by moi.