Mark Twain at the Buffalo express : articles and sketches by America's favorite humorist /

Main Author: Twain, Mark, 1835-1910.
Other Authors: McCullough, Joseph B., McIntire-Strasburg, Janice.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: DeKalb : Northern Illinois University Press, 1999.
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Review by Choice Review

All academic libraries with upper-division classes should own this volume as a matter of course, adding to their collections invaluable short Twain pieces including editorials, squibs, burlesques, hoaxes, and satires written in 1869 and 1870. The volume also includes many well-known Twain pieces, along with less-known obscurities. Of special interest are Twain's commentaries on the subjects of scandal, sensationalism, and the role of the media in public perceptions. McCullough's helpful introduction will assist readers interested in 19th-century humor and US humor in general and in comparisons of the US character then and now. On its own, the volume is entertaining and illuminating; in the context of other Twain works, it is a welcome and overdue addition to the Twain canon, offering most of the important material from a transitional period of Twain 's life. Suitable for both undergraduates and specialists. W. Britton; Harrisburg Area Community College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Scholars and researchers may delight in this collection of Twain editorials and sketches from his days at the Buffalo (N.Y.) Express, but the general reader will want to hunt and peck for the ``good parts.'' Twain bought part interest in the Express in 1869 and spent 18 months as its managing editor and editorial writer. This was a ``pivotal period'' for the writer, the editors note, ``that marked his transition from sometime journalist to celebrated author.'' Up to then, he'd been a ``vagabond travel writer and lecturer''; the popularity of Innocents Abroad changed all that. Many of the pieces collected here are burlesques, slapstick turns and tall tales the editors view as ``narrative experiments,'' precursors to his style and approach as a novelist. His ``Around the World'' letters, written jointly with Professor D.R. Ford (who ``does the actual traveling . . . such facts as escape his notice are supplied by'' Twain), would be recycled into the novel Roughing It. Arranged chronologically, many of these sketches and unsigned editorials show his growing frustration with journalism as a profession. Twain often took up a subject in direct response to the sensational reportage of another paper. One such series of editorials began in the fall of 1869 with Harriet Beecher Stowe's revelation of Lady Byron's disclosure to her of Lord Byron's alleged incest with his sister. Other items of interest include Twain's railings against the ill-treatment of former slaves, his humorous profile of Henry Ward Beecher (``The great preacher never sleeps with his clothes on''), and his interview with a Wild Man in Kansas (one of many hoaxes he delights in). Unfortunately, a lot of this work is too much of its time; their point and humor may well be lost on the modern reader. The long, dry, scholarly introduction by the editors (who teach at Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas, and St. Louis Univ. respectively) offers little help.

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