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Mark Twain's America

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3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  24 Ratings  ·  5 Reviews
Beginning in 1835, the birth year of Samuel Clemens, and extending through the Gilded Age, Mark Twain’s America depicts the vigorous social and historical forces that produced the creator of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Bernard DeVoto catches a people moving west: Twain’s own family drifting down the Ohio, emigrants of every stripe, the famous and the obscure. Answerin ...more
Paperback, 351 pages
Published April 1st 1997 by Bison Books (first published January 1st 1932)
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Eric
My copy, a 1932 first edition fished out of a dollar bin, is a substantial slab of the bookmaker’s art. Cloth boards, durably sewn spine, rustic-artisanal typeface, stark woodcuts at each chapter head, and thick, heavy pages I had to separate with a paper knife. It’s a book I want to read at night, in a north woods cabin, snug in a stout rocker before a big fire, sipping whiskey with a “swell, smoky taste.”


DeVoto calls his book “an essay in the correction of ideas”—a clunky enough description, b
...more
Greg Strandberg
Dec 11, 2015 Greg Strandberg rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I read the first chapter or two of this book and then skipped around a bit.

I wasn't a fan of the style or the fact that things jump around in the narrative. It's hard to follow, much harder than DeVoto's history of the West books.

If you want to learn about Mark Twain there are some good insights and lots of details about the period, especially before his life.

If you want to learn about him in a way that makes sense, however, I'd suggest another book.
Pete
Mar 04, 2014 Pete rated it liked it
three stars as a book -- it's kind of unreadable, full of weirdly ferocious swipes at fellow literary critics of the jazz age (van wyck brooks comes in for some sonning in this book). but even apart from the amputated milieu, it's just written in this froofy, allusive, adjective-choked mode, and in way-overcooked sentences. half the time i could not be entirely sure what the hell devoto was talking about. BUT i give this book five secret stars for containing rad tidbits of frontier history/ameri ...more
Bob
May 11, 2010 Bob rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Mark Twain and/or Bernard DeVoto
One irascible, iconoclastic curmudgeon's celebration of his literary four-flusher.
EXCERPT:
He was a humorist. He had no formal education. His life had been spent in activity, away from what are known as artistic pursuits. He had had no discipline whatever in systems of aesthetics. The society that had formed him was mobile, not static. He had had no experience of continuous and ripening tradition. His mind flashed, sometimes, with a brilliance, a penetrating illumination that is unmistakable gen
...more
Eric
Aug 13, 2014 Eric marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
SENTRY EDITIONS are books of lifetime interest, intended not for casual reading but for life on the shelf as well as in the hand. They are printed on paper of good quality in a binding that has the durability of cloth but the price and compactness of paper.
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Bernard Augustine DeVoto was an American historian and author who specialized in the history of the American West.
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“They came to Virginia City as soon as the true value of the Comstock was perceived. They constituted, no doubt, a deplorable source of gambling, pleasure and embroilment. They were not soft-spoken women, their desire was not visibly separate from the main chance, and they would have beheld Mr. Harte’s portrayal of them at Poker Flat with ribald mirth. But let them have a moment of respect. They civilized the Comstock. They drove through its streets reclining in lacquered broughams, displaying to male eyes fashions as close to Paris as any then current in New York. They were, in brick houses hung with tapestries, a glamour and a romance, after the superheated caverns of the mines. They enforced a code of behavior: one might be a hard-rock man outside their curtains but in their presence one was punctilious or one was hustled away. They brought Parisian cooking to the sagebrush of Sun Mountain and they taught the West to distinguish between tarantula juice and the bouquet of wines. An elegy for their passing. The West has neglected to mention them in bronze and its genealogies avoid comment on their marriages, conspicuous or obscure, but it owes them a here acknowledged debt for civilization.” 2 likes
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