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Life on the Mississippi
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AMERICAN HISTORY > 4. HF - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI - CHAPTERS 18 - 24 (109 - 134) (11/14/11 - 11/20/11) No spoilers, please

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Hello Everyone,

This is a memoir of the steamboat era on the Mississippi River before the American Civil War by Mark Twain, published in 1883.

The book begins with a brief history of the river from its discovery by Hernando de Soto in 1541. Chapters 4-22 describe Twain's career as a Mississippi steamboat pilot, the fulfillment of a childhood dream.

The second half of Life on the Mississippi tells of Twain's return, many years after, to travel the river from St. Louis to New Orleans. By then the competition from railroads had made steamboats passe, in spite of improvements in navigation and boat construction. Twain sees new, large cities on the river, and records his observations on greed, gullibility, tragedy, and bad architecture."

About the Author:

Mark Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in 1835, led one of the most exciting of literary lives. Raised in the river town of Hannibal, Missouri, Twain had to leave school at age 12 and was successively a journeyman printer, a steamboat pilot, a halfhearted Confederate soldier, and a prospector, miner, and reporter in the western territories.

His experiences furnished him with a wide knowledge of humanity, as well as with the perfect grasp of local customs and speech which manifests itself in his writing.

With the publication in 1865 of The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, Twain gained national attention as a frontier humorist, and the bestselling Innocents Abroad solidified his fame. But it wasn't until Life on the Mississippi (1883), and finally, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), that he was recognized by the literary establishment as one of the greatest writers America would ever produce.

Week Four:

During the week of November 14 through November 20, we are reading pages 109 - 134:

WEEK 4 - NOV 14 - 20
Chapter 18 - I Take a Few Extra Lessons p109
Chapter 19 - Brown and I Exchange Compliments p114
Chapter 20 - A Catastrophe p119
Chapter 21 - A Section in My Biography p124
Chapter 22 - I Return to My Muttons p125
Chapter 23 - Traveling Incognito p131
Chapter 24 - My Incognito is Exploded p134


Remember, these weekly non spoiler threads are just that - non spoiler. There are many other threads where "spoiler information" can be placed including the glossary and any of the other supplemental threads.

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers. We will also open up supplemental threads as we have done for other spotlighted reads.

We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, on iTunes for the iPad, etc. However, be careful, some audible formats are abridged and not unabridged.

There is still time remaining to obtain the book and get started. There is no rush and we are thrilled to have you join us. It is never too late to get started and/or to post.

Alisa will be moderating this book and discussion.

Welcome,

Bentley


This is a link to the complete table of contents and syllabus thread:

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/6...

TO SEE ALL WEEK'S THREADS SELECT VIEW ALL

Life on the Mississippi (Signet Classics) by Mark Twain by Mark Twain Mark Twain

Remember this is a non spoiler thread.


message 2: by Alisa (last edited Nov 14, 2011 08:18PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Alisa (mstaz) He doesn't always work with Mr. Bixby and learns and travels with others. He dreads Brown, who berates him and is a bit of a shouter. "Brown was deaf but pretended he wasn't" and in a fit of frustration one day Brown chases after Twain's brother and Twain gets in the way deliberately and does the unthinkable - he hits Brown, a high crime on the steamboat ranks. The captain takes Twain aside, thanks him, and turns the other cheek. Seems not everyone is a fan of Brown! When Brown confronts the captain and presents an ultimatum, the captain relieves Brown of his duties.

A boat explosion occurs up the river on a boat that his brother is on. Many are injured or killed, and some are rescued and taken in for healing. Grim scene.

Once war breaks out there is less demand and ability for steamboats to ply their trade along the river and Twain loses his pilot job. For the next 21 years he travels and works at a whole host of different trades - miner, writer, lecturer. He returns as a passenger to take passage on a steamboat, and hopes to do so without being recognized. He checks into a hotel under an assumed name, and is disappointed to be recognized. He visits the billiard room where previously the steamboat crew would gather when in port to share stories, but there are no such gatherings. St. Louis has become a big city by now, and fewer steamboats are found on the river banks taken over by levees and bridges. He gets on a ship, finds his way to the pilot house, and chats up the pilot who shows him all the 'new' tools in the pilot house. They talk of many things, and Twain eventually catches the pilot in a string of lies. The pilot of course claims to have known it was Twain all along, storms out of the pilot house over a disagreement and leaves Twain at the wheel of the steamboat. Seemingly, this is precisely what he wanted to have happen.


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments This book just leeps getting better and better. Loved the confrontation with Brown - Twain is a master!


☯Emily  Ginder In Chapter 22, Twain talks about his attempts to explore St. Louis under an assumed name. He keeps meeting people he knows, so he isn't very successful. He makes this comment: "How odd and unfair it is: wicked impostors go around lecturing under my nom de guerre, and nobody suspects them; but when an honest man attempts an imposture, he is exposed at once."

I think I remember reading many years ago about people who pretended to be Mark Twain and made money by giving talks and lectures. (This was while Twain was still alive.) I'm wondering if this is what he is talking about. I have looked for verification of these events, but can't find it. Does anyone have any information about this?

I wonder what he would think of all the ones who impersonate him today.


Alisa (mstaz) Emily, impersonators while he was alive? I wonder. I looked through his wiki info (fairly extensie, posted on the glossary) but did not see any mention of impersonators. He certainly seemed to take pride in his own branding. Hal Holbrook did a stage play a number of years ago where he acted Twain, I believe it was a one-man show of Twain's works. And if I recall, he depicted him quite well and the show had a good run.


Alisa (mstaz) Becky wrote: "This book just leeps getting better and better. Loved the confrontation with Brown - Twain is a master!"


The confrontation with Brown made me laugh. Very funny!


message 7: by ☯Emily (last edited Nov 17, 2011 06:32PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

☯Emily  Ginder According to the last sentence of this website, there were impostors and impersonators while Twain was alive, causing some confusion. I would like to find out more about these people who caused problems both while Twain was alive and even now.


http://www.twainquotes.com/Lookalikes...


☯Emily  Ginder I found a small reference in The Mark Twain Encyclopedia by J.R. Lemaster on pages 389-391 about impersonators from the time of Twain until today.

http://books.google.com/books?id=zW1k...


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments Very interesting - thanks - sad for Twain.


Alisa (mstaz) Thanks for the reference, Emily. Please make sure to add the book cover in your citation. Thanks!
The Mark Twain Encyclopedia (Garland Reference Library of the Humanities) by J.R. Lemaster by J.R. Lemaster


message 11: by Patricrk (new)

Patricrk patrick | 435 comments I guess a person could have a higher expectation of not being recognized before TV and film caused so much exposure. I assume there was no such thing as an identity card either.


message 12: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 117 comments The triage scene after the boat explosion reminded me of the makeshift hospital scene in "Gone with the Wind." Very grim.

I've had some bad bosses, but thankfully none as horrible as Brown. I expect it would cause even more of an ulcer back when there was so little in the way of a social safety net or labour law.

And very interesting to think of a world in which there was more of a chance to travel incognito (and impersonate others). No googling details of an author's itinerary, just relying on the local paper and stories around town.


Alisa (mstaz) Jim wrote: "The triage scene after the boat explosion reminded me of the makeshift hospital scene in "Gone with the Wind." Very grim.

I've had some bad bosses, but thankfully none as horrible as Brown. I ex..."


Medical treatment was very rustic, it really was a horrible scene. Shudder at the visual, and the suffering people must have endured.

With little 'official' identity documentation I suppose it could have been easy to be anyone and change identity and detection, unless you were famous for some reason such as being identified on a wanted poster, or perhaps politicians. Twain fancies himself as someone who should be recognized and we know him to cut a distinct image, but I wonder how recognizable a figure he was in those days, or if this is his ego talking?


☯Emily  Ginder If you look at the links given above, it seems to indicate that Twain was recognizable and impersonated. The first link shows other men who resembled him and were confused with him. Twain's picture was familiar since photographs were used in newspapers, promotional articles, etc.


message 15: by Becky (last edited Nov 22, 2011 10:13AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments In Chapter 23 Twain visits the hospitalized seamen from the steamship Pennsylvania. It's a gruesome site.

The reason I post is because I'm also reading The Greater Journey The Greater Journey Americans in Paris by David McCullough by David McCullough David McCullough and in Chapter 4 the author describes the French hospitals of a bit earlier in the 19th century. The difference is astonishing! The Paris hospitals were clean, spacious and beautifully equipped. Young American doctors with the desire and wherewithal learned an enormous amount there. The anesthesia, however, was nil and the attitude of the doctors rather more non-chalant. It was good to read they had morphine for Twain's seamen.


☯Emily  Ginder Becky wrote: "In Chapter 23 Twain visits the hospitalized seamen from the steamship Pennsylvania. It's a gruesome site.

The reason I post is because I'm also reading The Greater Journey[bookcover:The Greater..."


How is David McCullough's book? I bought it, but haven't had time to read it.


Alisa (mstaz) Becky wrote: "In Chapter 23 Twain visits the hospitalized seamen from the steamship Pennsylvania. It's a gruesome site.

The reason I post is because I'm also reading The Greater Journey[bookcover:The Greater..."


The hospital scene was grim. The morphine must have been handy but the techniques, well, you have to wonder.


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris has some slow parts but for the most part it's a good overview of the Americans who traveled to Paris in the mid-19th century, mostly garnered from diaries and letters, some other material. Another aspect of the book which I found fascinating was the playing out of the multiplicity of French eras and issues from the Bourbon Restoration through the Third Republic.


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1217 comments Oh the techniques! But it might be what they say in 150 years or so about ours!

Btw, Twain wrote that he didn't think much of Paris, but he stayed several weeks and he sure hated to leave. (lol)


Alessandra | 12 comments Chapter 20 broke my heart. Twain is so, so carefully clinical about it -- no Victorian hysteria -- but his brother dies, horribly, from a steamship boiler explosion. The description of the event is impressively plain, and all the more affecting for that.

When he described the stricken people laid out in the makeshift hospital as shapeless masses of cotton, I had a moment of sickening horror before I realised he was being literal -- the afflicted were coated with linseed oil and cotton in an attempt to protect their burned skin.

That he smoothly goes ahead 21 years after that is also impressive.


Alisa (mstaz) The hospital scene was simplistic, yet vivid, as you aptly point out. Great reflection.


Cheryl (cheryl319) | 372 comments Emily wrote: "I found a small reference in The Mark Twain Encyclopedia by J.R. Lemaster on pages 389-391 about impersonators from the time of Twain until today."

Great find - thanks! I was wondering about that too.

Having had a horrible boss, I really enjoyed Twain's comment that he would imagine killing Brown every night "in new and picturesque" ways." I laughed out loud when Twain said he was no longer afraid of Brown so he then "criticized his grammar." Ironic that if it weren't for that confrontation, Twain would have been on the Pennsylvania when the boiler exploded.

Two other favorites from this section:
1. Being from the New York area, I enjoyed Chapter 22, when Twain notes the differences in dress the further west and south he got from New York. I'll never forget how my aunt, who moved to Florida, laughed at me when I asked if I should bring something nice to wear when I visited in case we went out to eat. "No one dresses up here," she replied.
2. Chapter 23 when Twain describes a steamboat covered in enough dirt to be "taxable as real estate." :)


Alisa (mstaz) Brown just sounds like the worst, doesn't he? Funny that Twain gets his punches in more ways than one on that guy.

That quote from chapter 23 is pretty funny. It makes the boat sound as sooty as the river!


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