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How to Tell a Story and Other Essays

Mark Twain

Book Overview: 

In his inimitable way, Mark Twain gives sound advice about how to tell a story, then lets us in on some curious incidents he experienced, and finishes with a trip that proves life-changing.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .d with himself, and has to stop every little while to hold himself in and keep from laughing outright; and does hold in, but his body quakes in a jelly-like way with interior chuckles; and at the end of the ten minutes the audience have laughed until they are exhausted, and the tears are running down their faces.

The simplicity and innocence and sincerity and unconsciousness of the old farmer are perfectly simulated, and the result is a performance which is thoroughly charming and delicious. This is art and fine and beautiful, and only a master can compass it; but a machine could tell the other story.

To string incongruities and absurdities together in a wandering and sometimes purposeless way, and seem innocently unaware that they are absurdities, is the basis of the American art, if my position is correct. Another feature is the slurring of the point. A third is the dropping of a studied remark apparently without knowing it, as if one were thinki. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Nice short essays that convey Mark Twain's belief on how to tell a humorous story, the American way. A quick and enjoyable read.

A mighty little book, really one essay. The gist is this. The thing about funny American writers, according to Twain, is that they focus more on the manner in which a story is told rather than on the subject matter of the story. American writers turn literal story telling into an art in itself. I'll

“There are several kinds of stories, but only one difficult kind--the humorous.  I will talk mainly about that one.  The humorous story is American, the comic story is English, the witty story is French.  The humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner of the telling;
the comic story and t

Rather abrupt changes with little to no flow between them, although the anecdotes themselves are fine. It wasn't quite what I was expecting; I had assumed the "other essays" mentioned were essays about writing, when in reality they were just whatever Twain had thought of at the moment, including his

cute or whatever.

A short book, but possibly one of the funniest I've ever read! I laughed nearly the whole way through, particularly at the story which Twain wrote concerning the Limburger cheese incident towards the end of the book. I'd recommend this one to anybody!

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