The Mississippi River in the Age of Mark Twain
344 Pages / 6.00 x 9.00 x 1.06 in / 9 halftones
- Hardcover /
- 9780807171097 /
- Published: December 2019
- eBook /
- 9780807172872 /
- Published: December 2019
Mark Twain’s visions of the Mississippi River offer some of the most indelible images in American literature: Huck and Jim floating downstream on their raft, Tom Sawyer and friends becoming pirates on Jackson’s Island, the young Sam Clemens himself at the wheel of a steamboat. Through Twain’s iconic river books, the Mississippi has become an imagined river as much as a real one. Yet despite the central place that Twain’s river occupies in the national imaginary, until now no work has explored the shifting meaning of this crucial connection in a single volume.
Thomas Ruys Smith’s Deep Water: The Mississippi River in the Age of Mark Twain is the first book to provide a comprehensive narrative account of Twain’s intimate and long-lasting creative engagement with the Mississippi. This expansive study traces two separate but richly intertwined stories of the river as America moved from the aftermath of the Civil War toward modernity. It follows Twain’s remarkable connection to the Mississippi, from his early years on the river as a steamboat pilot, through his most significant literary statements, to his final reflections on the crooked stream that wound its way through his life and imagination.
Alongside Twain’s evolving relationship to the river, Deep Water details the thriving cultural life of the Mississippi in this period—from roustabouts to canoeists, from books for boys to blues songs—and highlights a diverse collection of voices each telling their own story of the river. Smith weaves together these perspectives, putting Twain and his creations in conversation with a dynamic cast of river characters who helped transform the Mississippi into a vibrant American icon.
By balancing evocative cultural history with thought-provoking discussions of some of Twain’s most important and beloved works, Deep Water gives readers a new sense of both the Mississippi and the remarkable writer who made the river his own.
Comprehensively researched and sweeping in its scope, Thomas Ruys Smith's book is an authoritative primer for understanding what the deep waters of 'The Mississippi' meant to Mark Twain, and what they still mean to American culture. An exemplary work of literary history. ~Sarah Churchwell, author of Behold, America: The Entangled History of "America First" and "the American Dream"
Thomas Ruys Smith’s book will be required reading for anyone interested in Mark Twain and / or Mississippi river culture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Framing both Twain and the river in new and often unexpectedly rewarding ways, it ranges widely through biography, literature, history, geopolitics, music and other forms of popular culture, issues of national and transnational identity, and much, much, more besides. An outstanding contribution to its various fields. ~Peter Messent, co-editor of The Letters of Mark Twain and Joseph Hopkins Twichell
Mark Twain knew a thing or two about the Mississippi River. So does Thomas Ruys Smith. In Deep Water, Smith intertwines the life and literature of Twain with the experiences and perspectives of many other people who lived, worked, and played along the Mississippi. Thanks to Smith, we now have a book that fully accounts for Twain’s complicated relationship with the Mississippi, a river that captured, and continues to capture, the American imagination. ~Michael Pasquier, editor of Gods of the Mississippi
This is the story of a great American writer and a great American river, and the relationship between the two. Thomas Ruys Smith's elegantly written, deeply researched account brings us closer to Mark Twain by enriching our understanding of the river that flowed through his life and work. We see the Mississippi worlds that made Twain, and come away with immeasurably deeper insight into the worlds he made. ~Ben Tarnoff, author of The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers
By embedding Twain's canonical work on the Mississippi River in the context of what numerous less celebrated others wrote on the same subject, Thomas Ruys Smith provides a valuable new perspective on Twain's vision, not just of the river, but of race, gender, imperialism, and national culture. ~Andrew Levy, author of Huck Finn's America: Mark Twain and the Era That Shaped His Masterpiece