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Roughing It (Penguin American Library)
by Mark Twain
ISBN 0140390103 / 9780140390100 / 0-14-039010-3
Publisher Penguin Classics
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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. [via]