a writer, people always ask me who’s my favorite writer. I tell them it’s
Mark Twain–hands down. To me, he’s one of a few All-American writers.
Unlike many contemporary writers and those who followed him, he wrote for
the common man. He traveled and wrote about places he visited, very much
like I do. But his vision of America was unique.
"When I was a boy," said Twain in the Atlantic
Monthly, "there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our
village on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a
At the age of 21, Twain became a "cub" for the famed pilot Horace
Bixby. He spent the next two years memorizing the entire river from St.
Louis to New Orleans, eventually getting a pilot's license himself. It
brought a big salary, fine cigars, and kid gloves; and Twain thought he
would never need another career. But when the Civil War came, it shut down
the river traffic, and the steamboat business never recovered. In its place
came the barge, the tugboat, and Twain’s desire to record that vanished
trade for all of time.
Twain lived through the better part of the 19th Century, from 1835 to 1910,
a time of tremendous growth and change in America. Although his name has
become synonymous with the Mississippi River region, he worked, traveled,
and lectured throughout the United States and Europe and saw the extremes of
American society–from the Victorian elegance of the Gilded Age in the East
to the rowdy gun-slinging ways of the Old West.