This is a disjointed, outrageous, hilarious, fascinating, meandering tour through a strange, lush, vanished America. It is also a series of autobiographical meditations by a singular genius, whose voice you will find yourself imitating in your speech and writing as you immerse yourself in this lovable book. It is an example of writing meant foremost to entertain and educate, which also attains the level of high art. Twain never neglected his audience.
The most engrossing sections describe the author’s education as a steamboat pilot. Vivid details and anecdotes link up to tell the story of a young man gaining confidence in the world, and also give you a peek into the prodigious feats and odd habits of the fraternity of steamboat pilots. The rest of the book is an account of Twain’s trip down the Mississippi decades later as a rich old man. The transformation of America during his lifetime is remarkable, and drew comparisons in my mind to what I am reading about life in China today.
Life on the Mississippi is a wonder and one of the great American books.