Academic journal article Mark Twain Journal

Mark Twain: The Gift of Humor

Academic journal article Mark Twain Journal

Mark Twain: The Gift of Humor

Article excerpt

Harold H. Kolb Jr., Mark Twain: The Gift of Humor. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2015. 504 pp. Index. Cloth.

Kolb's large book opens with Louis J. Budd's reminder (seconding William Dean Howells's adjuration) that all of Mark Twain's capacities as a writer depended, first and last, on his unfailing gift for humor. A smooth blend of biography and literary criticism then takes the reader on a leisurely tour of Twain's works, with pleasant stops such as a pause in looking at Roughing It to contemplate John McPhee's and cowboy poet Baxter Black's complementary descriptions of the velocity of winds in the Western states (paired with Twain's tall tale account of the Washoe Zephyr in Nevada). Here and elsewhere Kolb's easygoing prose wanders but never strays. In the second half of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer "idyll turns into adventure, the narrator drops his condescension, humor disappears, and the story becomes ... a fast-paced, action-packed thriller." In writing v4 Tramp AbroadTw&m faced the problem that he "did not have a supply of already published articles to rework, as he had for Innocents Abroad and Roughing It. …

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