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This volume spans the length of Mark Twains 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 isnt 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 novels worth of misfortune.

I have taught this book at the college level for a few years now; it definitely sheds Twains unfortunate Americana image, and it reveals the darker genius of this beloved author. Twains 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 Twains futuristic thinking, his tribute to the mind above all other things.

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