In high school my English Language & Literature teacher made me read Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; I was none too impressed with her for this as I did not care for his writing style. I struggled with every page and have thus held a grudge against the man since. The perfect storm seemed to come together though when several people I know recommended I read Roughing It all at about the same time.
It had been many years since my Huck Finn encounter, so I figured I’d give Twain another chance. The result? I learned much more about life in the Nevada Territory frontier and the particulars of mining in the area than I ever cared to know. I also learned of many interesting stories of the times and places Twain traveled, few of which were actually his own.
A large chunk of the book is copies of newspaper clippings or stories Twain relates of others that have made the frontier famous. Because of this I became unappreciative of my friend’s recommendation. I neglected the story, reading two other books instead, at times because I found this made the reading tedious and uninteresting as it wasn’t even his own.
My attention span increased as the book went on and Twain once again began relating his own adventures. I found his time in California and Hawaii to be quite interesting, particularly his story about a trip into the crater of a volcano where he had to save a friend falling through some dried lava, and wish the rest of the story would’ve been of a similar make. I’m not convinced though that it offsets trudging through the pages about his time in Nevada.
I can understand and appreciate how this is a classic travel book and how Twain was doing things that so many people for the time only read about. But really, I don’t appreciate his style of writing any more now than I did way back when I had to read Huck Finn for class, nor do I intend to pick up another one of his books. I’ve been fooled once, and now even fooled a second time, and have finally learned my lesson.
Mark Twain was a great writer and this is a fantastic story, but not every tale is for everyone. If you’re a lover of other Twain books I recommend picking it up and giving it a read through, but this one really wasn’t for me. I have so many other books I’d like to read on my shelves and now I only feel like I stood up the possibility of a good first date for one that I knew wasn’t going anywhere just because it seemed like it deserved a second chance.