Academic journal article Mark Twain Journal

Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History

Academic journal article Mark Twain Journal

Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History

Article excerpt

PAUL SCHNEIDER, Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2013. 394 pp. Index. Cloth.

By a coincidence two of the most absorbing books about the river with which Mark Twain is forever associated have issued within a few years of each other. Lee Sandlin's The Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild (2010) told the stories of John Murrell, cheating gamblers, competing steamboats, rascally con men, panorama painters, brothel owners, and other characters, sights, and tragedies along the stream that starts in Minnesota and becomes massive before it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Paul Schneider, on the other hand, only gives Twain a few obligatory nods and omits any mention of Murrell, but his narrative is every bit as compelling as Sandlin's. Schneider reminds us that 41 percent of the water moving east of the Rockies will find its way to the Mississippi basin. Interspersing historical vignettes with accounts of his own travels on the Father of the Waters, he describes the early mound builders and their cultures, the many misfortunes of the explorer Robert de La Salle, the horrific 1811 New Madrid earthquake, the condescension of Mrs. …

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