REVIEW: A Murder, a Mystery, and a Marriage by Mark Twain

a murder a mystery and a marriageFormat:  Paperback
Genre:  Classic Lit
ISBN:  0-393-32449-4
Published:  1876 / 2001 (this illustrated edition)

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Back of the Book Blurb:

Nothing could be more remarkable than the astonishing appearance, 125 years after it was first written, of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Marriage.  Mark Twain’s delightful rendition of life (and a disturbing death) in the mythical hamlet of Deer Lick, Missouri.  Twain’s story chronicles the fortunes of a humble farmer, John Gray, determined to marry off his daughter to the scion of the town’s wealthiest family.  But the sudden appearance of a stranger found lying unconscious in the snow not only derails Gray’s plans but also leads to a mysterious murder whose solution lies at the heart of this captivating story.

My Thoughts:

Definitely a quintessential Twain story! I enjoyed it, although I found it quite predictable. It’s hard to say if that’s because I’ve read a lot of Twain, or I’ve read a lot of stories with this formula, or it wasn’t Twain at his best. Whatever the reason, it was easy to predict, with perhaps the exception of the Jules Verne connection.

That, of course, brings me to the bonus, which added greatly to the story. Roy Blount Jr. wrote both a forward and an afterward for this story. It is the afterward that is of particular note, as it gives some historical context to what was going on with Twain at this point in his writing career. It’s been a very long time since I studied Twain or Howells (over 20 years ago, in college), and while Blount’s afterward was doubtless nothing new to many Twain aficionados, it did pair well with the story and gave it more depth.

I am also reminded, in reading this story, how much I love Twain’s writing. One of my long-term goals has been to read his entire body of work, and this reminds me that he needs to be (again) a regular part of my reading life.

REVIEW: My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber

my life and hard timesFormat:  Paperback
Genre:  Short Stories
ISBN:  9780060933081
Published:  1933

Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

Back of the Book Blurb:

Widely hailed as one of the finest humorist of the twentieth century, James Thurber looks back at his own life growing up in Columbus, Ohio, with the same humor and sharp wit that defined his famous sketches and writings. In My Life and Hard Times, first published in 1933, he recounts the delightful chaos and frustrations of family, boyhood, youth odd dogs, recalcitrant machinery, and the foibles of human nature.

My Thoughts:

I love James Thurber, and I especially love that this book is autobiographical. His stories are hilarious, partly because they are so absurd, but perhaps more so because of Thurber’s exquisite command of the language. He tells the stories perfectly, with no extraneous words, and it is as though you are a fly on the wall watching an utterly unbelievable event.

What is also great about this collection is the essay that precedes it. Certainly written by a literaty critic who has accurately assessed Thurber’s body of work, he is also an unabashed fan of Thurber – the man and the writer – which makes it the perfect preface for this book.

If your only experience with Thurber is “The Night the Bed Fell,” as mine was, you will not be disappointed.

REVIEW: “The Night the Bed Fell” by James Thurber

the night the bed fellFormat:  Digital
Genre:  Short Story
Published:  1933

Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

Back of the Book Blurb:

my life and hard timesWidely hailed as one of the finest humorist of the twentieth century, James Thurber looks back at his own life growing up in Columbus, Ohio, with the same humor and sharp wit that defined his famous sketches and writings. In My Life and Hard Times, first published in 1933, he recounts the delightful chaos and frustrations of family, boyhood, youth odd dogs, recalcitrant machinery, and the foibles of human nature.  “The Night the Bed Fell” is the first story in this book.

My Thoughts:

I have read a lot of funny short stories, but this is on the top five list for sure. It is an absolute riot. James Thurber is pitch perfect in this story, and can certainly hold his own in conveying the absurd in truly hilarious fashion.

Top Ten…ok, Five…Books on my Spring TBR Pile

Top Ten Tuesday is a book meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish.  I haven’t participated in a l-o-n-g time, but since it’s Spring Break this week, and I’m working on getting the baby on a new nap schedule, and my 8yo is happily eating breakfast and watching Curious George, I have time.

So, what are my reading priorities for Spring 2014?  Read on…

  1. Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal by T. David Gordon…I’m a pianist, and until recently, I was playing part time at our church.  Long story short, I am no longer doing that, due to some major differences of opinion that are not necessary to discuss here.  So I’m reading this book, which was recommended by a friend.  It should shed some light on some things I’ve felt for a long time.
  2. The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather…This past winter, I finally read (well, listened to) O, Pioneers! and My Antonia after many years on my TBR list.  I loved them.  L-o-v-e-d them…and loved O, Pioneers! especially.  Yes, I know My Antonia is Cather’s premier novel, and I really did enjoy it, but O, Pioneers! resonated deeply with me.  So I’m on to The Song of the Lark, to complete the Great Plains Trilogy, and then on to the rest of Cather’s work.  If you haven’t read her books, I encourage you to do so.  They are wonderful.
  3. Pain Redeemed: When Our Deepest Sorrows Meet God by Natasha Metzler…I started this early last year, and have yet to finish it.  I mean to do that this spring.  It is a deeply moving book of Metzler’s struggle with infertility.  I also read her blog (http://natashametzler.com/), and it is very encouraging.  She is a deep, thoughtful woman with a lot to say, and it’s high time I finished her book.
  4. Joy! A Study on Philippians for Women by Keri Folmar…I have a really hard time finding Bible studies that resonate with me, and truthfully, it’s not something I have ever been very good at.  However, I have lately felt like I need to do some sort of study, and I when I ran across this book, I connected with the idea of studying joy immediately.  So, this is another spring goal…to complete the study.  I’ve read Philippians – recently – so I really have no excuses.
  5. Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch in the Throat by Jen of People I Want to Punch in the Throat…This book is a collection of essays inspired by the blog of the same name, which is utterly hilarious.  If you’re not familiar with Jen, stop by her blog and read some of her entries.  She’s a bit of a potty mouth, so if you’re sensitive to that, consider yourself warned.  My personal favorite is her post on The Elf on the Shelf, which was gut-wrenchingly funny.  That was also the post that initially went viral, and launched her into the public consciousness.  She’s snarky & funny, and finds hilarity in every day life.  That is right up my alley.

That’s all I have on my short list for the moment.  There are many others, and you can peruse my entire list at Goodreads if you like.