Roughing It (The Penguin American Library)

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9780140390100: Roughing It (The Penguin American Library)

A marvelously vivid, many-sided portrait of America's frontier days.
 
Mark Twain's rambling took him all over the American West during teh 1860's. He prospected for gold and silver, speculated on timber and mining stocks, sailed to Hawaii, and worked for a succession of small newspapers. In Roughing It, his fictionalized account of these years, tall tales abound, as do sketches of unforgettable characters: desperadoes, vigilantes, newspapermen, Mormons, and prospectors.

Twain's Debt to the burlesque styling of regional humorists and his celebrated gift for accurately rendering regional speech are never more in evidence than here, but as Hamlin Hill points out in his introduction, Roughing It must also be read as Twain's renunciation of his footloose bachelorhood, his rejection of the mythic, romanticized image of the West, and his autopsy of the American dream.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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A fascinating picture of the American frontier emerges from Twain's fictionalized recollections of his experiences prospecting for gold, speculating in timber, and writing for a succession of small Western newspapers during the 1860s.

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There is no nicer surprise for a reader than to discover that an acknowledged classic really does deliver the goods. Mark Twain's Roughing It is just such a book. The adventure tale is a delight from start to finish and is just as engrossing today as it was 125 years ago when it first appeared.

Roughing It tells the true-ish escapades of Twain in the American West. Although he clearly "speaks with forked tongue," Roughing It is informative as well as humorous. From stagecoach travel to the etiquette of prospecting, the modern reader gains considerable insight into that much-fictionalized time and place. Do you know about sagebrush, for example?

Sage-brush is very fair fuel, but as a vegetable it is a distinguished failure. Nothing can abide the taste of it but the jackass and his illegitimate child, the mule. But their testimony to its nutritiousness is worth nothing, for they will eat pine knots, or anthracite coal, or brass filings, or lead pipe, or old bottles, or anything that comes handy, and then go off looking as grateful as if they had had oysters for dinner.
Roughing It is informally structured around the narrator's attempts to strike it rich. He meets a motley, colorful crew in the process; many mishaps occur, and it shouldn't surprise you that Twain does not emerge a man of means. But he withstands it all in such a relentless good humor that his misfortune inspires laughter. Roughing It is wonderful entertainment and reminds you how funny the world can be--even its grimmer districts--when you're traveling with the right writer.

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