Harder Than It Looks: The Final Recollections of Mark Twain

Thomas Hauser, Author
Thomas Hauser, Author United Publishers Group $19.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-8038-9432-7
Hardcover - 289 pages - 978-0-312-28572-2
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Samuel Clemens's formative first six weeks away from home (when he was 20) are the subject of Hauser's earnest but ultimately flimsy narrative, told in the voice of Twain writing at the age of 74 in 1910. On his way via coach to San Francisco, young Samuel Clemens stops at a small northwestern Kansas town to soak up the local color. He has a talent at poker (and smelling out the cheater) and becomes embroiled in a play of wills against a two-bit huckster and freedman, Hiram Kane, who exploits his slave, Bones, in public fighting matches. Clemens wins Bones in a card game and offers him freedom while sharing equally the profits from Bones's fighting ability. This particular incident in Twain's young life gives Hauser (The Hawthorne Group) the opportunity to write about a favorite subject, boxing (he has written books with and about Muhammad Ali), as well as to launch barbs at one of Twain's preferred targets, organized religion. Readers may admire Hauser more for his audacity than for his wit. Although Hauser has perfected the deadpan of Twain's delivery, inserting numerous compelling historical digressions along the way, this author is short on Twain's trademark humor, substituting all-too-obvious morals for the master's satire. (Oct.)
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