Book Review, Dystopia, Fiction, Horor, Japanese, Koushun Takami, Politics, Pop Culture, Sociology, Violence

Review: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Final Verdict: 3.25 out of 4.0

YTD: 25


Plot/Story:
3 – Plot/Story is interesting & believable.

Every year, in the Republic of East Asia, one 3rd-year Junior High class, made up of 15-year olds, is selected at random to participate in a Battle Royal – an epic fight to the death, where the final student to survive is crowned the winner.  The rationale for this yearly “program” is that the totalitarian government uses the events as a learning exercise for their military but, in reality, it is simply a way of generating fear and total devotion to the government.  The kids believe they are on a school trip, but as they are journeying via bus, a sleeping agent is released and everyone wakes up inside a classroom, where they discover they have been collared with an electronic device which not only monitors their whereabouts but will also explode if they try to escape or are caught in certain “forbidden zones” on the island where they have been relocated. The kids each get one bag of supplies, including one random weapon (ranging from simple instruments like a sharp stick or ice pick, to hand grenades and even a machine gun).  Suddenly, these classmates and friends are pitted against each other – some become killers out of fear, some because they were destined to be all along, and others only take lives while trying to save their own. 


Characterization:
3 – Characters well-developed.

There is a wide range of characters in this story, which is necessary with a cast of more than 40 people (42 students, initially, plus their schoolmaster, the game director, security guards, parents, etc.).  While there is a lack of depth in the more “evil” of characters (those like Kazuo and Mitsuko who are soulless and violent for the sake of being violent), there are certain characters who are truly interesting to watch, and who the reader might root for, such as Shinji, the sweet and brilliant computer nerd who has a plan to escape, and Shogo, the boy who seems a bit older than the rest and who has incredible secrets.  The two main characters, Noriko and Shuya, develop well over the course of the story – they grow somewhat as individuals and also as a couple (and, with Shogo, as a team).  The varied responses and ways of “playing the game” are reflected well in the diverse types of personalities present in this group of school kids, which makes a sometimes unbelievable plot feel more realistic and natural. 


Prose/Style:
3 – Satisfactory Prose/Style, conducive to the Story.

The story reads somewhat like an action movie-meets manga/graphic novel.  It is, at times, ridiculously over-the-top and cheesy.  Some of the dialogue, particularly the internal dialogue, is silly and very much “Japanese Pop” in nature.  The dialogue felt, at times, stiff, unnatural, and not at all in keeping with the age level of these kids or with the nature of the story which is quite dark, but which sometimes feels self-parodied (as if the writer sometimes felt self-conscious about his own seriousness, or lack thereof). Still, the book is appropriately fast-paced and the breaking up of chapters to focus on different characters is interesting in that it allows the reader an inside-look at everyone involved.  Keeping the book narrated in the third-person also means that the reader does not need to rely too heavily on a possibly flawed narrator.  The book’s structure might be its greatest achievement, as it is extremely difficult to care about characters in a book whose point-of-view, so to speak, changes on a constant basis.  There was some choppiness and grammar/spelling errors due, in part, to the translation – but which should have been caught and corrected during the editing process. 


Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.
4 – Additional elements improve and advance the story.

First of all, it must be said that the similarities between this book and The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (which came after Battle Royale) are prevalent enough that it would be irresponsible to ignore them.  From the premise itself, to the idea of trackers, from the importance of the bird call to the inclusion of “bags of supplies” for the contestants, from betting on winners to televising the results, from manipulating the game to discourage participants from being idle to awarding the winner a lifetime pension and national fame, the similarities go on and on.  The primary difference, though, is that the Battle Royale game is seen as a military training necessity for Greater East Asia, where as the Hunger Games are specifically meant to be a reminder to the districts of how the Capitol punishes disobedience and disloyalty.  Slim difference.  That being said, the primary idea (which has been retold many times by many authors in many different forms, by now) is brilliant and original.  Although the author does not mention it, it would be hard not to see some minor influence, at least, from The Lord of the Flies.  The study of human nature, group dynamics, and survival instincts by witnessing the actions of teenagers isolated on an inescapable island – of course the influence is there; however, the important distinction is that these children did not land on the island by mistake, they were kidnapped and are being manipulated by their government and their elders.  This says just as much about society and politics as the microcosm of Golding’s island did.  The influence of action films and rock music, too are clear – both in the themes of the story and in its structure; for example, the main character and two main supporting characters (one who aids the main character, the other who is hunting him) are directly inspired by the movie Terminator 2.  The questioning of blind obedience to authority, the themes of oppression, fear, trust, isolation, and the dangers of totalitarian governments and violent Nationalism are all explored and effective.


Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: High School +
Interest: Pop Culture, Youth Violence, Survival of the Fittest, Fight to the Death, Action, Humanity, Politics, Society, Japanese fiction, Dystopia.


Quotes:

“And so his choice to reduce the numbers of “the enemy” as efficiently as possible wasn’t motivated by rational thoughts but instead by a deeper, primal fear of death.”

“Please live. Talk, think, act. And sometimes listen to music . . . look at paintings, allow yourself to be moved.  Laugh a lot, and at times, cry. And if you find a wonderful girl, then you go for her and love her.”

“It’s not a bad thing to be loved.”

“Their two bodies danced in the air beyond the cliff, their hands still clasped together, the black sea under them.”

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1001 Books, 2012 Challenges, 2012 TBR Challenge, Book Review, Dystopia, Fiction, Literature, Margaret Atwood, Religion, Sociology

Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Final Verdict: 3.75 out of 4.0

YTD: 04 


Plot/Story:
4 – Plot/Story is interesting/believable and impactful (socially, academically, etc.)

The Handmaid’s Tale is a rather terrifying vision of an America wherein the government has fallen to religious (Christian) extremists, and society is forced to regress to puritanical social and cultural constructs.  First, women are forced out of their jobs.  Then, their bank accounts are frozen and their funds accessible only by their husbands or male next of kin.  Soon, women, non-believers, and sinners are being rounded up and sorted out – either to fulfill various “roles” in the new society or to be exterminated as examples of “justice” being served for violators of God’s laws.  The Jews are shipped out of America or killed.  Children birthed out-of-wedlock or born to parents who are in their second or third marriages (and, thus, unrecognized by the Church) are stolen from their parents and subjected to early indoctrination.  Offred, the main character, is a Handmaid.  She is hunted down, separated from her husband and daughter, and mercifully “allowed” the chance to serve God’s purpose, by becoming a live-in sexual servant to a Commander – one of the new society’s highest leaders.  All women are subjects, after all, and their primary purpose is to serve their men by giving birth to children (and births have declined rapidly due to toxins in the air, water, etc.).  Offred must accept, or die. But, beneath all tyrannical regimes there exists small rays of hope – freedom fighters and subversives, working slowly, quietly toward change.  Will Offred live the remainder of her life – however long or short that may be- in full service of her Commander and the will of the new regime?  Will she be tormented by echoes of the past – memories best forgotten and certainly left unsaid?  Or will she find a way out, after all? 


Characterization:
3 – Characters well developed.

The world Atwood has created in The Handmaid’s Tale is by far the most important character in it.  The plot is executed in such a way as to lend a feeling of suspense and mystery to the novel, an accomplishment which makes the book simultaneously more than just “literature” and more than just “entertaining.”  This is accomplished primarily because of the slow development of the story’s primary character, which is the world itself – the religious regime and the cloistered, domineering social structure.  They are living, breathing elements of the book – just as much as Offred, Ofwarren, the Commander, or any other character within it.  That being said, the story itself is so powerful and commanding, that it allows less room for growth and development of the traditional characters.  While there are certain changes to watch for, primarily in Offred, the Commander, Nick, and Ofwarren (and, also in Offred’s relationships with each of these characters, which also change and develop slowly, in different ways, throughout the course of the novel), the back stories of many of the characters are left untold – hinted at, but never completely explained.  This is one of those books where one might wish it had been another 50 or 100 pages long, simply to allow for more character development and interaction.  What exactly happened with Serena Joy, for example?  Or, how are Rita and Cora different – what does it mean that one is always smiling and tender, while the other is guarded and gruff?  So much, including the ending, must be guessed, assumed, inferred – this does add to the mystery of the story and allows for personal interpretation but, personally, I would have loved just a bit more guidance and clarity.  Small complaints, really, for what turns out to be an incredibly engaging read.  


Prose/Style:
4 – Extraordinary Prose/Style, enhancing the Story.

Atwood creates a style of prose – a type of narration – which was completely new to me, and highly appropriate to the conditions in which the narrator lives.  Most of the book is narrated in such a way as to depict not just internal monologue, but a person who spends time speaking to herself.  This makes sense, considering the fact that most Handmaids had few, if any, people they could speak openly with – but how Atwood actually manages to physically narrate in such a way as to give the reader the impression of a narrator who is talking to herself, without expressly mentioning it, is beyond me.  Still, she absolutely does it.  The exceptions to this style are found in the form of brief moments of dialogue and in the epilogue.  Speaking of the epilogue – this turns out to be a transcript of a speech given at a “Gileadean Symposium.”  It is a section at the end that I almost skipped because it was labeled “Historical Notes” – just another example of Atwood’s cleverness.  To get full appreciation for the story, be sure not to miss this last section of the book! 


Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.
4 – Additional elements improve and advance the story.

There are so many reasons to love this book:  the language and the prose; the setting – familiar but so changed; the mystery and suspense; the humor.  The best of all these, though, the reason to truly love this book, is because of the story itself.  It is terrifying in theory and would be equally terrifying in practice (allowing one’s self to admit that such practices did exist, largely, and still do exist, in certain communities, makes the sting even sharper).  Also adding to the intrigue is the understanding that societal changes such as this one are not too difficult to imagine.  How many times in the history of humankind have we witnessed the seemingly rapid rise of brutal dictatorships?  How quickly are we “re-educated” – turning in neighbors, friends, co-workers for their transgressions, in hopes of keeping ourselves, our families safe?  The situation described in The Handmaid’s Tale can be compared effortlessly to that of Nazi Germany – the treatment of the Jews, the gays, the “others.”  It is larger than that, though – there is a deep, dark element of human nature being explored here; something that is more than just racism or sexism or any form of bigotry or dominance.  It is the nature of fear and power.  What really controls us?  How can we be made to do things we would never, in our right minds, consider doing?  Fear and power.


Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: High School+
Interest:  Dystopian Society, Religion, Social Constructs, Power, Male/Female Dynamic, Fear.

Notable Quotes:

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum – Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

“Newspapers were censored and some were closed down, f or security reasons they said.  The road-blocks began to appear, and Identipasses.  Everyone approved of that, since it was obvious you couldn’t be too careful. “

“She is a flag on a hilltop, showing what can still be done: we too can be saved.”

“There is something reassuring about the toilets.  Bodily functions at least remain democratic.  Everybody shits, as Moira would say.”

“Better never means better for everyone, he says.  It always means worse for some.”

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Book Review, Fiction, Gay Lit, GLBT, Sociology, William S. Burroughs

Review: Queer by William S. Burroughs

Queer by William S. Burroughs
Final Verdict: 3.5 out of 4.0

YTD: 20

Plot/Story:
3 – Plot/Story is interesting & believable.

William S. Burroughs’s Queer is a story about American expatriates, living in Mexico during the 1960s.  Most of the ex-pats are male, and most seem to be homosexual or to have homosexual “tendencies.”  What is interesting about Queer is that it was one of Burroughs’s earlier works, but one of his last published.  The reason for this is that the book is “overtly” homosexual.  Upon reading, though, and particularly for one familiar with Burroughs’s work, it is quickly realized that this is one of Burroughs’s tamer novels.  Yes, it addresses homosexuality head-on, as opposed to via the abstract imagery and language employed in his other books; still, when one compares this to, say, Naked Lunch or The Wild Boys, it almost seems bland.   It surprises me, then, that Burroughs managed to get his other, more daring and dangerous works published, while this one sat shelved for decades.

Characterization:
4 – Characters extraordinarily developed.

I was impressed with Burroughs’s characterization in Queer, particular with that of the main character, William Lee, and his love interest, Eugene Allerton.  There are minor characters, too, who play important supporting roles, and all of these are written in a way so as to be distinguishable and individually important – this includes every character from the nameless taxi drivers to the bar tenders, to the “working-boy” locals and the “king” of the Mexican city’s American-Gay community.  What Burroughs does so well is to allow you to empathize with a rather bizarre main character who is on an even stranger kind of journey (drug-induced romanticism).  The reader sees William for what he is, all the while William is putting on a show for the people around him, trying to hide his pain and jealousy and, particularly, how much he wants to be wanted.
Prose/Style:
4 – Extraordinary Prose/Style, enhancing the Story.

As always, I adored the style of the book and Burroughs’s prose.  He is a brilliant writer – it becomes impossible for me not to finish his books in one or two sittings, because the pages just turn and turn.  Particular strengths in this book, I think, are the dialogue and the chapter breaks.  The dialogue develops and flows naturally, so it is easy to imagine yourself in the room with these people, engaging in the conversation or simply overhearing it from the bar.  It helps, too, that the description (characterization as well as setting) is so vivid and clear.  The chapters are typically brief – they are much like individual scenes which progress William’s story – physically and temporally.

Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.
3 – Additional elements are present and cohesive to the Story.

Reading Queer in retrospect, after reading his later works, is almost eerie.  There is this nascent, fetus-like Burroughs element to the writing.  The story subtly hints at some of Burroughs’s later terrors – McCarthyism and the Red Scare, invasion of privacy, social crucifixions, political over-reaching.  There are small glimpses, through William Lee of these fears – perhaps this group is made of the early refugees, the one who can sense the change coming, aren’t quite sure what it is, but know they have to get out to stay free and safe.  This book certainly forecasts Naked Lunch in many ways – and the brilliance of Burroughs is revealed further, knowing that decades before his sociopolitical rants against government brutality and regimentation, he had written one small little book that had already been projecting it all.  Also, it was interesting to see a softer-side to Burroughs.  This is the first of his books that I recall addressing the issue of “love.”  William has some clear yearning and need for companionship and the story here is very much about him trying to find it – sort of finding it – losing it, and dealing with that loss.  Incredibly touching.

Suggested Reading for:
Age Level:  Adult

Interest: Homosexuality, Drug Culture, Mexico, South America, 1960s American Politics

Notable Quotes:

William S. Burroughs on Queer:  “I glance at the manuscript of Queer and feel I simply can’t read it. My past was a poisoned river from which one was fortunate to escape, and by which one feels immediately threatened, years after the events recorded.  –Painful to an extent I find it difficult to read, let alone write about. Every word and gesture sets the teeth on edge.”

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1001 Books, Book Review, Fiction, Literature, Psychology, Sexuality, Sociology, Vladimir Nabokov

Review: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

  Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Final Verdict: 3.75 out of 4.0

YTD: 18

Plot/Story:
4 – Plot/Story is interesting/believable and impactful

Let’s take a moment to talk about true artistry, shall we?  What Vladimir Nabokov does with Lolita is pure, unadulterated (heh heh) genius.   The story is about a middle-aged man, Humbert Humbert, who falls madly in love and ravenously in lust with a twelve-year-old girl.  Dolores (Lolita, to Humbert) is daughter to the woman who owns the house wherein Mr. Humbert lodges for a time, while wandering from place to place (which we soon discover is typical of him).  Humbert has moved from France to the USA, after a lifetime of scholarly work and writing, and after being unable to shake the memory of and desire for his young first love, lost, Annabel.  Devious, dirty, old Humbert establishes a plan to get rid of the troublesome mother, so that he may have Lolita all to himself – even going so far as to fantasize about a possible Lolita the second (who would be Humbert’s granddaughter, and future love).  These plans falling into and out of action – and the many stumbling blocks and detours along the way – are the actions which drive this brilliant story forward.

Characterization:
4 – Characters extraordinarily developed.

It goes without saying that Mr. Humbert is a troubled man – but he is also brilliant and eerily endearing.  Here is an anti-hero who one knows should be despised, yet you find yourself, at times, self-consciously rooting for him.  Therein is the genius of Nabokov.  His style and prose, his mastery of language and how to use it against his readers, coupled with his skill at characterization and knowledge of human psychology, all becomes irresistible.  Lolita, too, is created with precision and great forethought.  She is no victim (though she is).  She garners little sympathy from the reader, though she may deserve it in general, and specifically at times.  Still, one becomes convinced by Nabokov that, while Humbert knows what he is doing is wrong – as do you – you wonder if their relationship was meant to be, you wonder if it could work, after all.  While the majority of the time is spent with these two characters, which are drawn effectively and flawlessly, there are also some minor characters which are written equally well  – well enough to complement our two primaries.  The nosy neighbors, the other nymphets (including Annabel), and Humbert’s “brothers” – often appearing much more devious than Humbert himself.  Even Humbert’s demons – the phantoms of his mind, hunting him down as he and his Lolita roam from place to place – are extraordinary characters in themselves and add much to Humbert’s character.  Finally, Humbert’s last mistress, Lolita’s innocent & injured husband, and Clare the villain are all drawn to serve Humbert & Lolita’s major story, but each have personalities and individualities of their own, which makes the story plausible, rounded, and interesting in a more rounded way.

Prose/Style:
4 – Extraordinary Prose/Style, enhancing the Story.

John Updike said of Nabokov’s ability, “Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically.”  I find it impossible to disagree.  The prose is beautifully fluid and, at times, overwhelmingly enthusiastic.  It almost oozes across the page, like a lover’s bacchanalian walk towards the bedroom: as she looks back at you over her shoulder while stumbling forward – slightly clumsy, but unarguably riveting, you know that you cannot resist. You must follow.  It is some of the most enveloping and inescapable prose I have ever read.  There was also quite a bit of French, typically in descriptions or inner-monologue, which was distracting to me because my knowledge of French is extremely limited; however, it was important to see it there, as an essential piece of Humbert – it just became a piece which I needed to learn to acknowledge, then skip over.   Nabokov was a master of language, so the structure was complex, yet the beauty of the prose made it easy to follow.  The vocabulary is appropriately challenging while the plot-line remains straightforward.  Ultimately, there is a fine balance between the challenging aspects and the zones of comfort, which matches the nature of the story impeccably.

Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.

3 – Additional elements are present and cohesive to the Story.

Vanity Fair magazine called Lolita, “the only convincing love story of our century.”  While you cannot entirely argue that this is not a love story, I do insist that too much stress has been put on the idea of “love,” by readers of Lolita.  Certainly, Humbert himself was convinced that he was madly en amorado for little Lolita and, in the years he is with her (and the few following their separation), the reader is witness to a staunch loyalty to her – but is this the loyalty of a true love, or of a lost pet who has eyes only for his master, because he knows that is how it should be (and because he hasn’t been sufficiently distracted, yet).  I tend to lean more toward the latter, even after the self-sacrifice and mental break at the end.  Still, the traveling life, the expensive gifts, the cheap motels – even the way Humbert describes his need to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit in order to take Lolita’s temperature – all work brilliantly to tug at the reader’s heartstrings, and perhaps that is the sad, scary love story, after all.

Suggested Reading for:
Age Level:  Adult

Interest: Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, Pederasty, Family, Sexuality

Notable Quotes:

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.  My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”

“You have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super-voluptuous flame aglow in your subtle spine (oh, how you have to cringe and hide!), in order to discern at once, by ineffable signs—the slightly feline outline of a cheekbone, the slenderness of a downy limb, and other indices which despair and shame and tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate—the deadly little demon among the wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them and unconscious herself of her fantastic power.”

“All at once we were madly, clumsily, shamelessly, agonizingly in love with each other; hopelessly, I should add, because that frenzy of mutual possession might have been assuaged only by our actually imbibing and assimilating every particle of each other’s soul and flesh; but there we were, unable even to mate as slum children would have so easily found an opportunity to do so.”

“We had been everywhere. We had really seen nothing. And I catch myself thinking today that our long journey had only defiled with a sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy, enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was no more to us than a collection of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, old tires, and her sobs in the night — every night, every night — the moment I feigned sleep.”

“Oh, my Lolita, I have only words to play with!”

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Essay, Fiction, Humor, Mark Twain, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Politics, Religion, Satire, Short Story, Sociology

Review: Who is Mark Twain? by Mark Twain

Who is Mark Twain? By Mark Twain
Final Verdict: 3.75 out of 4.0

YTD: 14

Plot/Story:
4 – Plot/Story is interesting/believable and impacful

Who is Mark Twain? is a collection of short stories, essays and letters, published posthumously by Twain’s editors.  It encompasses a wide range of political, social, and educational ideals, as well as some insight into Twain’s personal and family life, as well as funny anecdotes about his journey from San Francisco nobody to over-night sensation.  As usual, I connected strongly with Twain’s pieces – I tend to be aligned well with his philosophical points of view (when he praises the U.S. Journalists for being irreverent, except where actual reverence is due, as opposed to foreign presses which pay reverence to pretty much everything, I about shouted with joy), but I did disagree with him in one respect: he completely bashes Jane Austen, in the short essay “Jane Austen.”  Now, I had heard that Twain wasn’t a fan, and it’s not hard to imagine why – when you compare Twain’s world and work to Austen’s, it’s almost polar-opposite – almost.  Twain touches on Austen’s satire and parody, but only briefly – and in a way which indicates that Twain didn’t think Austen really knew what she was doing, and her later critics made it appear as if she was being satirical when, in fact, she really believed what she was writing.  Now, I don’t know how far Twain went to familiarize himself with Austen’s works or personal writings – he mentions two books, which he tried to read repeatedly, but couldn’t get into. That’s fine and dandy, but I do think Twain was off on this one, because Jane Austen was a brilliant comedienne who, I believe, truly knew what she was doing and saying.

Characterization:
3 – Characters well developed.

This section really only applies to those works of short fiction in this collection – the essays and letters due have characters, because Twain tends to respond to everything with a story.  Still, his characters really shine in stories like “A Group of Servants,” “The Undertaker’s Tale,” and “The Snow-Shovelers” (which was also a brilliant statement on politics and ethics hypocrisy).   Some of the strongest characterization, in my opinion, is found in two stories whose main characters are animals: “The Jungle Discusses Man” and “Telegraph Dog.”  Here, Twain uses animals in human situations to discuss human nature – which was fascinating (and the first, “Jungle” reminded me of a twisted retelling or foreshadowing of The Lion King, actually). 

Prose/Style:
3 – Satisfactory Prose/Style, conducive to the Story.

Twain’s prose is fluid and easy to follow.  Whether he is writing a fictional story, a letter to an editor, or a biographical letter to a friend, his language is effortless and his ability with puns and world-play is uncontested (the only class of writers I can compare him to are Shakespeare, Swift, and Vonnegut).  I adore the satirists, but they have to be brilliant if they are going to get it right, and Twain definitely gets it right (most of the time).  Reading his pieces is like conversing with a charming old friend, who just wants to catch up after the years, chat about how things have been going, and tell you how completely wrong you are about everything, but all the while offering you candy and cigarettes, fluffing your pillow and refilling your drink.  He cares deeply about people, and he cares about giving the proper kind of respect to the people who have earned it.  All of this, the sentiment of his convictions and virtues, comes across in the tone of the language, and through the undercurrent of the words – the actual words often saying the opposite of what Twain really means. 

Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.
4 – Additional elements improve and advance the story.

What I enjoy so much about Twain is the way he tackles difficult issues, be they politics, religion, education, or social ideals, boldly and confidently, but with a reassuring and refreshing sense of whimsy and fun, as if to say “there’s no reason to be bothered about any of this, really.”  He is serious, but calm – he can put the “smack down” on anybody he finds in the wrong, and he does in quite a few instances in this collection, but one gets the feeling that Twain finds all arguing in general, rather silly – he just wants to live a good life, and to encourage that in others, and he gets most dangerous and powerful when he is writing against any attack on people’s rights to happiness and well-being.  He pokes-fun at people in a brilliantly endearing way, but he does the same to himself, which makes the reader comfortable in knowing that, at the very least, Twain is a man who can take an honest look at himself and criticize where critique is due. 

Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: High School and above

Interest: Satire, Non-Fiction, Memoir, Auto-biography, Short Story, Politics, History

Notable Quotes:

“I asked the British Government to tell me what head I came under.  . . . Now you will never believe it, but I give you my honor that this – this, which you see before you- was actually taxed as a Gas Works.”  – Twain discussing taxes imposed upon his published fiction in England, before copyright laws.

“It seemed to sort of recognize me as one of the Friendly Powers – not on a large scale, of course – not like Russia and China and those, but on a – well, on a secondary scale – New Jersey.”

 

 

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