Book Review: Mark Twain’s Guide To Diet, Exercise, Beauty, Fashion, Investment, Romance, Health And Happiness

Mark Twain’s Guide To Diet, Exercise, Beauty, Fashion, Investment, Romance, Health And Happiness, collected and edited by Mark Dawidziak

Before wandering around my library working for books recently, I did not know who Mark Dawidziak was, but apparently he has performed as Mark Twain for a long time and is considered by some (including midbrow popular historian Ken Burns) to be an expert on Mark Twain [1].  This book is certainly entertaining, but it is a miscellaneous set of writings that will likely not greatly tax the reader.  As a prolific writer, Mark Twain said some things that appear contradictory and he spoke on a wide variety of subjects in the guise of his literature, his voluminous travel writing, as well as his public speeches.  Like many writers, Mark Twain tended to collect a great many quotes attached his name that others may have created, which adds some layers of interest to any collection of quotes because of the textual criticism that is necessary to uncover where and when Twain said something in his body of work which included unfinished works, and the author does a good job at introducing various subject matters and in presenting the wit and wisdom of Mark Twain on these matters.

The book itself is about two hundred pages and consists of various quotations taken generally out of context from Twain’s writings about a long list of subjects mostly referred to in the title.  After an introduction from the editor, the contents of this book include twenty chapters of various advice dispensed by Twain either in fiction or nonfiction or in spoken talks on the following subjects:  exercise (1), diet (2), sleep & rest (3), smoking (4), drinking (5), curing sickness (6), stress management (7), anger management (8), maintaining a positive outlook (9), beauty tips (10), fashion (11), finances and investment (12), experience and education (13), political philosophy (14), religion (15), surviving childhood (16), romance and marriage (17), parenthood (18), old age and wisdom (19), death and the afterlife (20).  After this the book contains some acknowledgements and notes about the author and his diverse body of writings, and the quotes in general do a good job at presenting Twain as someone who was witty and who (like many writers) tended to hit on the same topics over and over again.  Whether or not one would want to take the advice of the author is one matter, but Twain was certainly an interesting fellow and there was a lot that he did that could be viewed favorably by many readers.

Overall, a book like this helps one know what an editor/compiler thinks is worthy of remembering, which is interesting enough, and also certain aspects of Twain’s life and behavior.  From these quotes we learn that Twain had a terrible temper but controlled it most of the time, was quite a lazy person in terms of physical labor but had an able mind and was a productive and prolific writer, similar to myself in that regard, and that he was not very good at investments but was a very honorable person when it came to his debts, even at great cost to his own health and well-being.  By and large, although there is a considerable amount I would disagree with Twain about, there is much to enjoy here and if this is not a rigorously academic work it should at least introduce many serious readers to the scholarly apparatus of Twainiana.  How people respond to it and how far people to in looking up Twain’s writings and thinking about them in an academic or serious matter is, I suppose, up to each individual reader for themselves.  I think most readers will appreciate this volume, at least.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/06/19/innocents-abroad/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/09/10/book-review-great-men-bow-down/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/06/20/book-review-inventing-english/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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