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The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories Mass Market Paperback – Oct 2 2012


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Signet Classics; Reprint edition (Oct. 2 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451532201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451532206
  • Product Dimensions: 10.9 x 1.9 x 17.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 141 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #693,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri, in 1835, and died in Redding, Connecticut, in 1910. In his person and in his pursuits, he was a man of extraordinary contrasts. Although he left school at twelve, when his father died, he was eventually awarded honorary degrees from Yale University, the University of Missouri, and Oxford University. His career encompassed such varied occupations as printer, Mississippi riverboat pilot, journalist, travel writer, and publisher. He made fortunes from his writing, but toward the end of his life he had to resort to lecture tours to pay his debts. He was hot-tempered, profane, and sentimental—and also pessimistic, cynical, and tortured by self-doubt. He lives in American letters as a great artist, the writer whom William Dean Howells called “the Lincoln of our literature.”

Jeffrey L. Nichols has been Executive Director of the Mark Twain House & Museum since 2007. He joined the museum in 2001 after having served as Director of Education and Visitor Services for the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Mr. Nichols serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Milford Historical Society in Milford, Connecticut, and the Board of Directors of the New Haven Museum. He has served as a board member and Speakers Chair for the Connecticut League of History Organizations. Mr. Nichols is a graduate of the Bank Street College of Education in New York City, where he earned an M.S. degree in Museum Education. He received a B.A. in History and Education from Southern Connecticut State University, and an M.B.A. from the University of New Haven.

Howard Mittelmark is a writer, editor and book critic living in New York. He is co-author of How Not to Write a Novel.

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Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Karl Rosenquist on March 23 2002
Format: Paperback
I have taught this book at the college level for a few years now; it definitely sheds Twain's unfortunate Americana image, and it reveals the darker genius of this "beloved" author. Twain's greatest work, The Mysterious Stranger will enrage fundamentalist Christians, several of whom have dropped my course because of this novella. Asking people to think about what is real, what is behind existence, though, is no crime and should be inoffensive. Young people who are harmed by systematic thinking will react to this book like people being deprogrammed from a cult: they will hate it. But Twain, who was in anguish when he wrote this, had the honesty to ask difficult questions. Read The Mysterious Stranger as a guide to Twain's futuristic thinking, his tribute to the mind above all other things.
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Format: Paperback
this volume spans the length of Mark Twain's career, and contains some of his most famous shorter works, which all centre on the subject of Money. 'The Celebrated jumping frog of Calaveras County' is the most perfect tall tale in the English language, three flawless pages about Jim Smiley and the bizarre sidelines he would investigate to win a bet, any bet, written in a miraculous mid-19th century California vernacular. If that isn't enough, Twain tops it with the best closing paragraph of any work I have ever read ever.
'The $1,000,000 Bank note' is almost surreal, or Marxist, the story of a derelict made an unwitting guinea pig by two elderly millionaires, curious to see what would happen to an honest but poor man in the possession of such an impractible note. The frightening fetishistic power of currency structures a somewhat creepily benevolent narrative, and the opening paragraphs audaciously cram a novel's worth of misfortune.
'The Man who corrupted Hadleyburg' is the masterpiece here, at once an unforgiving morality tale about the temptation of money on an incorruptible town, and a satire on the crippling effect of bogus social respectability. Twain's irony is at its most relentless here, mixing anger at elite hypocrisy with distaste for the savage mob mentality. The scenes of public justice are hilarious but terrifying; the unnamed man taking monstrous revenge on a whole town for a personal slight, exposing its shams by an experiment, could well be Twain himself.
The same could be said of the hero of his novella 'The Mysterious Stranger', Twain's last, posthumously published work.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 28 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Mysterious Stranger is perhaps the clearest expression of Clemen's unspoken philosophy about the nature and meaning of human life. The author is of course a world-class cynic, sarcastic to a fault, and if he were not so, he would not be the Twain that we know and love. But in this story, we see the full expression of all his sarcastic wit and buried bitterness and hate. Clemens shows himself to be an out-and-out nihilist by the end of the story. I was shocked that he pushed as far as he did in proclaiming the meaning of life to be nothingness, that the full purpose of man in the cosmos was nil, a cruel joke at best. To be sure, the story is a master work from a master writer, but this story more than any other I've read shows Clemens' philosophy to be a very cruel and harsh one, one which only made me feel sorry that he so drastically misunderstood the nature of the universe and its Creator.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 19 reviews
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Three supreme masterpieces, one ornery let-down. Aug. 2 2001
By darragh o'donoghue - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
this volume spans the length of Mark Twain's career, and contains some of his most famous shorter works, which all centre on the subject of Money. 'The Celebrated jumping frog of Calaveras County' is the most perfect tall tale in the English language, three flawless pages about Jim Smiley and the bizarre sidelines he would investigate to win a bet, any bet, written in a miraculous mid-19th century California vernacular. If that isn't enough, Twain tops it with the best closing paragraph of any work I have ever read ever.
'The $1,000,000 Bank note' is almost surreal, or Marxist, the story of a derelict made an unwitting guinea pig by two elderly millionaires, curious to see what would happen to an honest but poor man in the possession of such an impractible note. The frightening fetishistic power of currency structures a somewhat creepily benevolent narrative, and the opening paragraphs audaciously cram a novel's worth of misfortune.
'The Man who corrupted Hadleyburg' is the masterpiece here, at once an unforgiving morality tale about the temptation of money on an incorruptible town, and a satire on the crippling effect of bogus social respectability. Twain's irony is at its most relentless here, mixing anger at elite hypocrisy with distaste for the savage mob mentality. The scenes of public justice are hilarious but terrifying; the unnamed man taking monstrous revenge on a whole town for a personal slight, exposing its shams by an experiment, could well be Twain himself.
The same could be said of the hero of his novella 'The Mysterious Stranger', Twain's last, posthumously published work. In this, an angel, Satan, nephew of his infernal namesake, comes to a late 16th century Austrian mountain village and systematically exposes the murderous herd instincts, moral deceptions and shabby pretensions of the human condition. Everything - war, religion, society, justice, family, human aspiration, childhood innocence - is ground down with misanthropic, sub-Swiftian satire.
'Stranger' is not an easy book to like. As an historical novel, it is an utter failure, with no attempt to understand the mindset, never mind the language, idiom or customs of an alien culture. As an allegory for the contemporary America in which Twain was writing, the book is indispensible, insightful, brave, bracing, honest, incredibly prescient, but monotonous, flatly written and exhausting. As a supernatural fable, the book has little sense of wonder or of the unknown, but in its story of a devil wreaking subversive havoc on a socially repressive culture by playing on their hypocritical terms, 'Stranger' does look forward to Bulgakov's more successful 'The Master and Margarita'.
27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
The Mysterious Stranger is Essential Today March 23 2002
By Karl Rosenquist - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have taught this book at the college level for a few years now; it definitely sheds Twain's unfortunate Americana image, and it reveals the darker genius of this "beloved" author. Twain's greatest work, The Mysterious Stranger will enrage fundamentalist Christians, several of whom have dropped my course because of this novella. Asking people to think about what is real, what is behind existence, though, is no crime and should be inoffensive. Young people who are harmed by systematic thinking will react to this book like people being deprogrammed from a cult: they will hate it. But Twain, who was in anguish when he wrote this, had the honesty to ask difficult questions. Read The Mysterious Stranger as a guide to Twain's futuristic thinking, his tribute to the mind above all other things.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding Religious Satire June 7 2009
By S.A. Alenthony - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A number of Mark Twain's lesser-known stories remain virtually unheard of - not because they aren't good - but because they'd offend too many people.

His short novel The Mysterious Stranger, published posthumously in 1916, certainly qualifies in this regard. It's not going to be on any of the official reading lists of the various public schools named after him. And it's an absolutely hilarious and caustic little paperback that you need to get familiar with.

This book will be of interest to anyone suspicious of religion in general. For non-theists that have grown accustomed to the standard academic treatments of the reasons for rejecting belief, as well-written as many have been of late, this book provides a fresh perspective and change of pace. The force of the satire that this irreverent, scathing genius brings down upon the entire Christian conception of God and Moral Sense is really something to behold.

In late sixteenth century Austria, a group of boys meet an angel that has appeared one day. The angel's name is Satan (no, not the Satan, merely his cousin, hence the same family name). Satan gives them an education, both through words and deeds, about some Ultimate Truths. Here's a brief excerpt of his examination of God Himself:

"... a God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice and invented hell - mouths Golden Rules, and forgiveness multiplied by seventy time seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man's acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites this poor, abused slave to worship him!"

In this 120-page work you can feel a lifetime of the great man's anger, frustration, and contempt for so much baloney (baloney that was taken even more seriously in Twain's day than it is in ours) on every page. This story belongs in the same class as Voltaire's Candide and Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan as the best of that rare breed: atheist-themed fiction.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The truth about the fraudulent 1916 Mysterious Stranger July 29 2010
By Richard Bucci - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It amazes me that there are so many editions, in print and in electronic format, of the 1916 "Mysterious Stranger." In 1962, already almost half a century ago, John S. Tuckey (in his pamphlet "Mark Twain and Little Satan") conclusively revealed the truth of this crime, viz.: that Mark Twain's unscrupulous executors, Albert B. Paine and Frederick Duneka (of Harper's) cobbled this story together from two separate Mark Twain manuscripts, and then subjected their stitched-together monstrosity to prudish verbal censorship, and themselves wrote linking passages to smooth over rough patches. Tuckey's revelations inspired what was then known as the Iowa-California edition of the Mark Twain Papers to publish "The Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts" (Univ. Calif. Press, 1969), containing all three of Mark Twain's related group of Satan stories. Since that time, the 1969 critical text of the only more or less complete manuscript, called by Mark Twain, "No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger," has been issued several times by the Univ. of California Press. If you are interested in reading Mark Twain's works, then get those University of California Press editions, and eschew this surplusage now!
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Mystical. Dark. Engaging. Jan. 15 2008
By Fady Gharbawy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Warning: DO NOT Read This Story Before Sleep!

Dark, mysterious, and terrifying are trivial descriptions of Mark Twain's "The Mysterious Stranger." Twain's cynical outlook on life is reflected in his depiction of human nature as the story advances. Set in 1590 Austrian village of Eseldorf, whose German translation means "stupid village," the reader already feels captivated by this strange etymology. In such a dreamy village with no strict class structure, no one has been taught to challenge authority since there has been none--yet. A handsome mysterious stranger introduces himself to the gullible Theodore and his friends, performing chilling miracles that amaze the kids who now think he is an "angel." And oh, did I forget to mention that this stranger calls himself Satan?

Before engaging in a lengthy discussion of the story's themes, an idea of the author's life is necessary to understand some of the horrid scenes in "The Mysterious Stranger." Mark Twain was not rich. He was one of the three survivors in his family, as his four other siblings died before reaching six years of age. His dad died when he was 11 and his brother in a steamboat accident not 8 years later. Twain's wife died after 34 years of marriage followed by his two dear daughters at their late twenties. In summary, by 1909, Twain was only left with a sister and a melancholic soul that is reflected in his famous writings.

With Twain's life in mind, it becomes clear why many scenes of death and torture exist in this short story. Satan creates humans out of clay but crushes them while announcing, "We angels cannot do bad, for we do not know what it is." It is simply ironic that a heavenly angel would do so, for his actions nullify his assertions. It is these ironies that Twain wants his readers to understand. Many critics have asserted that Twain agrees with Satan but only to a certain extent. We cannot deny our selfishness when we battle over territories and religion, but we must rebuke that we are "worse than animals," as Satan tells the kids.

In these 50 pages, Satan focuses only on three things: proving human's worthlessness, weakness, and immorality. Moral Sense is a major theme in this book, as Satan tries to prove that our possession of it, or our ability to differentiate between what is good and what is bad, is the main cause that we hate, fight, and kill. The irony here, however, is that Satan never discusses the opposite, namely our possession of moral sense as seen in such peace-making people as Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mohandas Gandhi.

To entice the reader, Twain uses many elements of Dark Romanticism that fortify his mystical mood of the story. From the opening chapters, we see supernatural elements in Satan's creations. Later on, Twain discusses why we choose to declare war instead of peace, depicting our flaws and selfishness. Since all humans, according to Satan, are imperfect, then they are prone to sinning and falling. As seen in Satan's repetition of our failure in history, there can be no improvement since all we do is worsen. The mystical "miracles"--if you want to call them so--that Satan perform also represent the supernatural and ghostly elements of Dark Romanticism beliefs.

With bizarre and supernatural elements that immediately attract your mind and attention, with Twain's morbid perception of life that renders the story more terrifying, and with your curiosity of unveiling our undeniable flaws presented by Satan, I really believe that this short story is a worthwhile read that will keep you in your seat until you finish it.


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