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This humorous account is a patchwork of personal anecdotes and tall tales, many of them told in the “vigorous new vernacular” of the West.
Selling 75,000 copies within a year of its publication in 1872, Roughing It was greeted as a work of “wild, preposterous invention and sublime exaggeration” whose satiric humor made “pretension and false dignity ridiculous.” Meticulously restored from a variety of original sources, this text adheres to the author’s wishes in thousands of details of wording, spelling, and punctuation.
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By Tad Davis on 01-02-12
The wild humorist of the West
With this volume, Grover Gardner has done all of Twain's best travel writing: Innocents Abroad, A Tramp Abroad, Life on the Mississippi, and now this. Of the four, Roughing It is one of the funniest. It's Twain's account of the six or so years he spent out West, first as an undersecretary to the secretary of the Nevada territory, who happened to be his brother Orion; then as a silver miner and entrepreneur; then a newspaperman, concluding with an extended account of his first travel assignment: a tour of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) for a San Francisco newspaper. Without making the slightest effort to impersonate Twain, Gardner captures the spirit of the work flawlessly.
Twain's travel writing is like no one else's on earth. Without batting an eye, he can shift from the most accurate and evocative nature writing to the most outrageous tall tale - and back again. He can be brutally iconoclastic and awestruck by beauty in the same paragraph. (His glowing account of a night-time visit to Lake Tahoe is coupled with the story of how he and his partner managed to burn down several acres of timber on the shore of the lake by accident, destroying their investment in a budding timber concern.)
I'm still shuddering at his tale of venturing into the crater of an active volcano in Hawaii, picking a careful path through partially-hardened lava fields by torchlight.
If you've read Twain's novels and want more, give his travel writing a try. I waited way too many years to do so myself. Roughing It is one of the last I read, and is one of the best.
22 of 22 people found this review helpful
By Steve Means on 05-18-16
One of Twain's greatest works
Mark Twain had some amazing experiences, and was obviously very sharp and absorbed everything around him. A better book about the migration Westward, and the goldrush, I cannot imagine. Witty, insightful, and very well narrated by Grover Gardner... I did not want it to end. Caution: this book may not be appropriate for Mormons.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful