The Quotable Mark Twain Essay - Critical Essays

The Quotable Mark Twain

Mark Twain is at it again. For well over a century America’s most beloved author has been entertaining, instructing, and humorously chastising readers in the United States and around the world. Now, with the assistance of the considerable editorial skills of noted Twain scholar R. Kent Rasmussen, the master raconteur is served up fresh, new, and delightfully irreverent, on hundreds of subjects from bon mots on accidents, actors, and Adam and Eve (“Adam and Eve had many advantages, but the principal one was, that they escaped teething”) to commentary on worms, worship, and writing (“if I’d a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn’t a tackled it and ain’t agoing to no more” [Huck Finn]). In between, Twain seems to have left readers worthy comments on a grand medley of subjects, from cats and chameleons, churches and cigars, to “the moral sense,” suicide, truth, and swearing. Even “skin color” merits an entry that those accuse Twain of racism should read: “Nearly all black and brown skins are beautiful, but a beautiful white skin is rare.”

Nearly ninety years after his passing, Twain continues to transcend the limitations of time and place. Few, however, have the time to peruse his vast oeuvre. So much the better then, that an imaginative Twain scholar has taken the trouble to ransack Twain’s letters, speeches, and published works to cull the sentences, snippets, and paragraphs, many of which have never found their way into Twain anthologies, that compose THE QUOTABLE MARK TWAIN: HIS ESSENTIAL APHORISMS, WITTICISMS, & CONCISE OPINIONS. The result is the best single work of its kind in print, a volume sure to elicit smiles and snickers from anyone venturing into its precincts. And if readers are edified along the way, no harm is done.