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Editorial Reviews

Over a century before the dime-a-dozen memoirs started popping up on our shelves from people with dubious claims to fame, Mark Twain wrote Life on the Mississippi. At the age of 12, when he was still going by Samuel Clemens, he left school to begin a career of odd jobs until he received his steamboat pilot license. It was this experience going up and down the Mississippi on the steamboat that not only provided the backdrop to these humorous and exciting tales, but also the occupation which gave him his famous pen name. Veteran narrator Norman Dietz gives a performance Twain would be proud of, ensuring the satire and earnestness alike are not lost on any listener.

Publisher's Summary

When Mark Twain was growing up, all he wanted to be was a steamboat man. And so Twain ran away in pursuit of his dream. Life on the mighty river for Twain consisted of paddleboats and history, poker games and gamblers, larger-than-life characters and outlandish festivals like Mardi Gras. Twain recorded it all with his keen eye for detail and biting wit.
Public Domain (P)2004 Recorded Books

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Humorous, poignant, informative, adventurous

The wild man from Hannibal who gave us Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn remembers (and revisits) his home town in this memoir written after he was rich and famous and no longer the kid that in his heart he always remained, at least partly. In making the journey, he tells about the geologic history of the Mississippi, about the geographic effects of the river, about the early days of steamboating on the river and the complexity of the task of moving a boat on a river that changed from hour to hour and day to day and was always ready to grab a boat and its passengers and pull them to muddy death. Any reader who enjoyed Tom and Huck owes it to himself to sample this wonderful story by a man who never wrote a bad sentence, although he was know for using bad language, i.e. profanity, at the drop of a cigar ash. I have listened to the recording twice, have read the book more than two times, and if I take a notion, I will do it again, regardless of the consequences, so little do I value sanity. (That was supposed to be humorous, but I really have listened twice and read twice....and I hope you do too.)

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent

Mark Twain's Life on the Mississipi is excellent, one of his best works. It contains a nice blend of humor and a picture of a part of early American life. Some of the previous reviewers commented negatively on the recording quality, which kept me from getting this book up to now but I finally decided to go for it anyway. To tell the truth I can't find anything wrong with the recording quality so I'm not sure why the other reviewers complained, plus the narrator has a very clear voice and one which seems to capture my mental image of Twain. Overall highly recommended.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Inaudible!

I honestly think this is a good book depicting the way of life along the mighty Mississippi river, told with Twain's renowned wit and displaying his love for the subject, but unfortunately the horrible sound quality of this recording makes it near inaudible, and impossible to listen to. I gave up about two hours into the book, having understood only about half of what had been said. I'll be damned if I'm going to listen to a 14 hour long audio book, 7 of which consist of incoherent mumbling!

33 of 37 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Quintessent, Elegant, Perfect...

I am shocked that people actually had the audacity to review this work based upon its fidelity. And for the record (no pun), the recording is FINE if you have any clue how to operate any sort of an audio playback machine.
What this piece is about is obviously the text, which is Twain at his documentary best.
This piece is also about Norman Dietz, who is -objectively- the most straight and consistent reader of the Twain out there. And he's on the money and very sweet in this version.
But getting back to the text, this is a most lovely American document. It should be required reading. Artfully woven language, satire and prose, with a touch of poetic angst put this in the tops of this reviewers list of books-to-be-listened-to.
Thank you, Norman, and a huge thanks to the author wherever he is. He's a mighty powerful pen with a passion and a pension to please.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Martin
  • New York, NY, USA
  • 01-01-09

Absolutely delightful

This book got some bad reviews here, but I can't see why. The narrator was a champion storyteller and every word was clear. It's about an interesting time in American history, humorously told as the autobiography of a steamboat pilot.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • cort
  • Kensington, CA, United States
  • 03-21-09

Not one of Twain's best

The narration is excellent and the story offers an interesting historical perspective of a unique period in American history. Still, the book is short on the wit and humor that mark many of Twain's other better books.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Mike
  • Prairieville, LA, USA
  • 04-28-05

Mostly Audible :)

Yes, the narration starts off badly technically sampled, but the quality gets very good a little less than halfway through. In all, the audio quality wasn't bad enough for it to significatly effect my understanding or enjoyment of the book. The content however is a bit like the Mississippi, rather meandering and long.

The book follows Twain down and back up the Mississippi who gives picturesque vingettes of everything inbetween. He also gives an excellent and detailed history of river navigation and how to be a steamboat pilot, from his own experience as one in the 1800's. There are many exciting and interesting stories in the narration which are frustratingly enjoyable as the rest of the novel can be quite dull. Frustrating because they are good enough to keep you plodding through the dull stuff to hear another good one :) Just be prepared for a very long read as it can put you to sleep often. It took me two months to get through it. But, again like the Mississippi, it's slow, peaceful and soothing. Do listen to the appendix at the end as it contains an excerpt he recorded about an old Indian story titled "The Head that Wouldn't Die" In my opinion, it's the hilite of the book!

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Nobody reads Twain like Norman Dietz

I have to say this audio book was excellent. Funny in parts, serious in parts, kind of sad in parts, The "tall tales" and exaggerations were priceless. The long section on training to be a riverboat pilot is a real piece of Americana. (Several comments in other reviews were on the audio quality -- it was perfect. Not sure what the problem was.)

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

The Mississippi river stories

This well written book by Mark Twain is really his observations about life on Mississippi steamboats and cities up and down the river. He tells stories about the people he met and stories he was told. I found it interesting and almost felt like I was on one of the steamboats looking at the shoreline of cabins, shacks and people. His writing helped me to feel what it was like in that time period and what the people and places were like. I would recommend this book.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

mark twain at his best

narrator changed for appendix and sounded very rushed, I decided to just read that, book is free from Gutenberg

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  • Lord Peridot
  • 12-02-17

Mark Twain at his best

Mark Twain isnt always at his best but he is in this book, writing about what he knows and loves, in other words the olden days of steamboats and the Mississippi. Funny, interesting, moving and always colourful. Also Norman Dietz catches the mood of the man perfectly. Dry, brisk and a bit rustic but none the less sympathetic and humourous.

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  • Caroline
  • 09-14-13

Fascinating insight to times gone by

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Most definitely, the detail, information and history is fascinating.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Well, 'Mark Twain' of course, his story telling is just wonderful.

Any additional comments?

This is a book I could listen to again and again, the detail in it ensures that each time I hear it, I find out something new.