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Dangerous Water: A Biography Of The Boy Who Became Mark Twain

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While Mark Twain remains one of our most quintessentially American writers, the actual boyhood experiences that fueled his most enduring literature remained largely unexplored—until now. Twain's early years were a decidedly un-innocent time, marked by deaths of friends and family and his father's bankruptcy. Twain dealt with those personal tragedies through humor and the t While Mark Twain remains one of our most quintessentially American writers, the actual boyhood experiences that fueled his most enduring literature remained largely unexplored—until now. Twain's early years were a decidedly un-innocent time, marked by deaths of friends and family and his father's bankruptcy. Twain dealt with those personal tragedies through humor and the tall tale. From the time that a ten-year-old Samuel Clemens lit out on his own and boarded his first Mississippi steamer to his first encounter with a traveling "mesmerizer" (which ignited his lifelong penchant for acting and spectacle), from the brooding sense of guilt and fear of eternal damnation inculcated into him at church to the superstitions and stories of witchcraft he learned from the blacks on his farm, Powers unforgettably shows how Mark Twain was shaped by the distinctly American landscape, culture, and people of Hannibal, Missouri. Jay Parini, the celebrated biographer of Robert Frost, called Dangerous Water "a long-needed evocation of the boyhood of the man who invented boyhood for all time. . . . An immensely shrewd and deeply engaging book, a great gift to all of us who love Twain."


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While Mark Twain remains one of our most quintessentially American writers, the actual boyhood experiences that fueled his most enduring literature remained largely unexplored—until now. Twain's early years were a decidedly un-innocent time, marked by deaths of friends and family and his father's bankruptcy. Twain dealt with those personal tragedies through humor and the t While Mark Twain remains one of our most quintessentially American writers, the actual boyhood experiences that fueled his most enduring literature remained largely unexplored—until now. Twain's early years were a decidedly un-innocent time, marked by deaths of friends and family and his father's bankruptcy. Twain dealt with those personal tragedies through humor and the tall tale. From the time that a ten-year-old Samuel Clemens lit out on his own and boarded his first Mississippi steamer to his first encounter with a traveling "mesmerizer" (which ignited his lifelong penchant for acting and spectacle), from the brooding sense of guilt and fear of eternal damnation inculcated into him at church to the superstitions and stories of witchcraft he learned from the blacks on his farm, Powers unforgettably shows how Mark Twain was shaped by the distinctly American landscape, culture, and people of Hannibal, Missouri. Jay Parini, the celebrated biographer of Robert Frost, called Dangerous Water "a long-needed evocation of the boyhood of the man who invented boyhood for all time. . . . An immensely shrewd and deeply engaging book, a great gift to all of us who love Twain."

44 review for Dangerous Water: A Biography Of The Boy Who Became Mark Twain

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Just finished it. It reads well, and quickly. He really "gets" SLC as a boy, I think. A clever lad who fell in love with language, in part because he worked in a print shop. In other part, because of the wonderful oral culture around him, and his uncanny ear for it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Meh. I've read better Twain bios

  3. 4 out of 5

    Scott Gill

    If you are a Mark Twain fan, this is a must read. At times a little wordy but it covers Samuel Clemens' childhood and how those events most impacted his writings. Like Clemens, I grew up on the manks of the Mississippi River and the adventures and mystique of the river haunts me to this day. This book is a detail exploration of his fears, fun, family, and friends and how each played its part in bringing us the great writer, Mark Twain.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mark Valentine

    Powers re-creates the age and the people that filled Sam Clemens' life. I think this is an essential biography to read for anyone remotely interested in Mark Twain. I especially enjoyed reading the early printing experience that Sam Clemens had, of learning where the "Jesus H. Christ" swearing came about, of reading about the murders that Sam Clemens witnessed, his near death experiences, his obsessions, his fears, and his hilarities. It is informative, engaging, and genuine.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Barney

    Honestly, I want to give it a five star rating. Powers essentially stops the biography at the point where Clemens sets his first line of original type - which is a helluva thing to do, because he is denying himself much of the biographical fun in exchange for ALL of the thankless heavy lifting. For Twain geeks to be sure - but also a lesson to biographers that all subjects CAN be made interesting at all stages of their lives if enough tenacity and talent are brought to the task.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    meh. Advertises itself as a history of Mark Twain's childhood but reads like a college essay where the writer is too obviously trying to prove how smart he is on very little factual evidence. I didn't finish it. Life's too short.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Atchisson

    Small hints of Powers' fascination with the subject which ultimately culminated in a later traditional Twain biography. In any event, this is light reading not menat for the serious scholar.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bette Pfender

    I love anything about or by Samuel Clemens.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Keith

    Interesting biography of Mark Twain and how his childhood affected his life.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Auping

  11. 4 out of 5

    Margy

  12. 4 out of 5

    Janice

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rose

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  17. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sherry

  19. 4 out of 5

    jennet wheatstonelllsl Proc

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Southgate

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sharazad

  22. 4 out of 5

    Will Meyerhofer

  23. 4 out of 5

    Macayla

  24. 5 out of 5

    Llaovell

  25. 4 out of 5

    Haley Wofford

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katy

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rikker

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stacey

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jim Miller

  30. 4 out of 5

    Allen

  31. 4 out of 5

    Bryia

  32. 4 out of 5

    Cristina

  33. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  34. 4 out of 5

    Timothy

  35. 4 out of 5

    Nonnie

  36. 5 out of 5

    Barb

  37. 4 out of 5

    Marne

  38. 4 out of 5

    Kay Nou

  39. 5 out of 5

    Pam

  40. 4 out of 5

    Bobbie

  41. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Wilby

  42. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  43. 5 out of 5

    Jürgen Smit

  44. 5 out of 5

    Stefanie Van der goes

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