Friday, February 24, 2012

eBook Review: The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson

Mark Twain, The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 206 KB
  • Publisher: Public Domain Books (September 14, 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars (17 customer reviews)
  • Price: $0.00
1. Short review:

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: Author's Note to "Those Extraordinary Twins".
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Neither.
The book is free. At that, it is overpriced. This book wasted my time.

2.2. What I did not like: Before I start, go get yourself a drink and a snack. This is gonna take a while.

Structure: 21 chapters + Conclusion + 'Author's Note to "Those Extraordinary Twins"'

1. David 'Pudd'nhead' Wilson;
2. York Leicester Driscoll, aka Judge Driscoll;
3. Percy Northumberland Driscoll, his brother;
4. Thomas a Becket Driscoll, aka Tom, Percy's son and Judge Driscoll's nephew;
5. Luigi and Angelo Capello, Italian twins and, for all practical purposes, one character;
6. Roxana (no last name [nln]), aka Roxy, one-sixteenth black and, therefore, negro;
7. Valet de Chambre (nln), aka Chambers, Roxy's son and even less black; and
8. "Colonel Cecil Burleigh Essex, another F.F.V. [First Families of Virginia] of formidable caliber--however, with him we have no concern."
(Twain introduces the last named character thus in the first chapter but never refers to him again. He violated his own Rule 14: Eschew surplusage. I include him to illustrate how badly this tale was told.)


Tom and Chambers were born on the same day, 01 February 1830. Tom's mother died within the week. Roxy raised both boys.

Roxy switched the boys and raised the Driscoll heir as her son. In truth, once switched, we heard no more of Tom-as-Chambers until the Conclusion. And that bit is disappointing:

The real heir [Tom-as-Chambers] suddenly found himself rich and free, but in a most embarrassing situation. He could neither read nor write, and his speech was the basest dialect of the Negro quarter. His gait, his attitudes, his gestures, his bearing, his laugh--all were vulgar and uncouth; his manners were the manners of a slave. Money and fine clothes could not mend these defects or cover them up; they only made them more glaring and the more pathetic. The poor fellow could not endure the terrors of the white man's parlor, and felt at home and at peace nowhere but in the kitchen. The family pew was a misery to him, yet he could nevermore enter into the solacing refuge of the "nigger gallery"--that was closed to him for good and all. But we cannot follow his curious fate further--that would be a long story.

Bloody shame. That is a story I want to read. But back to the sogenannte plot.

Percy died and left Chambers-as-Tom to the care of his brother, Judge Driscoll. Roxy revealed to Chambers-as-Tom that he was Chambers. Chambers-as-Tom gambled away his money time and again. He sold Roxy 'down the river' even though she was freed by Percy. Roxy escaped from her master and returned.

All the above takes eighteen long, tedious chapters just to set up the action in the last three.

Chambers-as-Tom killed Judge Driscoll to inherit his money. The Italian twins were arrested and brought to trial for the murder. Wilson defended them successfully, implicated Chambers-as-Tom, and revealed the boys were switched in the sixth month of their lives.

As tedious as the set up was, the climax was worse. The court proceedings were ridiculous. When the gallery erupted in shouts, the sheriff called for order, vice the judge. Nothing was properly introduced in evidence. The defense attorney, Wilson, called himself as a witness. Wilson passed fingerprinted cards to the jury and asked them to examine the cards. The prosecutor never objected. The jury delivered no verdict.

It was apparent to me that Twain had never witnessed a trial. With his courtroom scenes, Twain violated his own Rule 8 [governing literary art]: They require that crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader. . . .

I gave this eBook 3 stars on Twitter, but I regret that. I now give it 2 stars; one for the 'Author's Note to "Those Extraordinary Twins"' -- which is worth the two minutes it takes to read -- and one for the name of Mark Twain.

Oh, yeah, the formatting sucks: no breaks between chapters; not even an extra line feed.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Masochists.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read? No.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Were this the only exposure I had to Mark Twain, I would never read his work again.

2.6. Other: The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson sucks. Sucks, sucks, sucks. I find it unbelievable that other reviews gave it 4 and 5 stars.

2.7. Links: None.

2.8. Buy the book: No, don't.


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