Cover image for Mark Twain laughing : humorous anecdotes by and about Samuel L. Clemens
Mark Twain laughing : humorous anecdotes by and about Samuel L. Clemens
Publication Information:
Knoxville : University of Tennessee Press, c1985.
Physical Description:
xxviii, 199 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 818 ZAL 1 1

On Order

Reviews 2

Kirkus Review

Zoll (editor of Ben Franklin Laughing and Abe Lincoln Laughing) offers a sparkling collection of anecdotes by and about Mark Twain, who was better known in his day as a platform humorist than as a writer. By the close of his career, The New York Times thought that ""he was quoted in common conversation more often than any other American, including Ben Franklin and Abe Lincoln."" Audiences expected at least two hours of talk per Twain performance. In preparing for the lecture circuit, Twain drew stories from his many volumes of clippings, delivered them with an enormously slow drawl, as when he told a London audience about a magical mountain: ""It is so cold that people who have been there find it impossible to speak the truth. I know that's a fact (here a pause, a blank stare, a shake of the head, a little stroll across the platform, a sigh, a cigar puff, a smothered groan), because--I've--(another pause)--been--(a longer pause)--there myself."" In the beginning Twain's anecdotes were rather long, but he wound up decades later with polished maxims and proverbs. He also saved private stories, ""about the physician uncertain whether the short patient has piles or a sore throat, and the bride whose tummy is found imprinted with an advertisement for a patent medicine guaranteed to cure the clap."" In the same vein is his parody oration against onanism, a ""stately subject"" full of ""dignity and importance. . .Caesar, in his Commentaries, says, '. . . They that are penniless are yet rich, in that they still have this majestic diversion.' . . .Catewayo, the Zulu hero, remarked, 'A jerk in the hand is worth two in the bush.' . . . The name of those who decry it and oppose it, is legion. . .Brigham Young. . .said, 'As compared with the other thing, it is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.' . . .Of all the various kinds of sexular intercourse, this has least to recommend it. . . As a public exhibition, there is no money in it. It is unsuited to the drawing-room. . . If you must gamble away your lives sexually, don't play a lone hand too much."" ""The course of free love never runs smooth. I suppose we have all tried it."" ""God, so atrocious in the Old Testament, so attractive in the New--the Jekyll and Hyde of sacred romance."" ""In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made proofreaders. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Choice Review

Twain relied heavily on the anecdote in his platform and after-dinner performances, and it became the basis of his literary art-the strength of his travel books, the bane of his longer fiction. Inevitably, it became a vehicle by which others defined Twain's public character. The 559 anecdotes chronologically arranged here range from an 1851 newspaper squib by the 16-year-old journalist to a story told about Twain recycled 50 years after his death by Cyril Clemens. Selections run from aphorisms to pieces of a few pages, including the scatological ``1601,'' chosen along with a few others to reveal a more earthy side to Twain's humor. The editor provides a too-brief introduction, tracks down apocryphal stories attributed to Twain as his celebrity grew, and includes a topical index. The volume offers entertainment and to some extent reveals Twain's evolving approach to humor; however, to whom it will be useful is not clear. It is mainly a browser's book, perhaps best suited to platform lecturers looking for anecdotes. Recommended for general readers.-H.J. Lindborg, Marian College of Fond du Lac