By Mark Twain, Introduction by Adam Gopnik
Everyman’s Library, $28.00, 744 pages
Everyman’s Library collection of Mark Twain’s complete short stories is not the first time Twain’s stories have been gathered in a single volume, but the Everyman edition is without a doubt the prettiest. Opening with Twain’s groundbreaking story “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and ending with “The Mysterious Stranger,” Mark Twain: The Complete Short Stories is bound in the classic Everyman’s Library burgundy cloth, with a regal photograph of Twain in a top hat on the cover and a narrow ribbon for place-marking within.
As for the stories, here Mark Twain – a tongue-in-cheek alias for the Missouri-born newspaperman Samuel Clemens – is at his best: witty, wise, lively, and quintessentially American. Lauded by William Faulkner as “the father of American literature,” Twain was a master of narrative voice. With a sometimes bullheaded confidence born of his years as a riverboat pilot and as a journalist in the rough-and-tumble American West, Twain spins his tall tales in this volume much like a ringmaster orchestrates a circus.
“We tried our best to make him comprehend the awful thing that had been done and how we were compromised by it, but he couldn’t seem to get hold of it. He said he did not think it important where Fisher went to; in heaven he would not be missed, there were ‘plenty there.’ We tried to make him see that he was missing the point entirely; that Fischer, and not other people, was the proper one to decide about the importance of it; but it all went for nothing; he said he did not care for Fischer — there were plenty more Fischers.”
While his best-known novels of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are classics in the American literary canon, Twain’s collected short stories also are a must-have for any conscientious book lover, and the Everyman’s Library edition presents them as a keepsake worth boasting about.
Reviewed by Jennie A. Harrop