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A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court
by Mark Twain
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From School Library Journal
Grade 5 Up-While Mark Twain is most often identified with his childhood home on the Mississippi, he wrote many of his enduring classics during the years he lived in Hartford, Connecticut. He had come a long way from Hannibal when he focused his irreverent humor on medieval tales, and wrote A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. The hit on the head that sent protagonist Hank Morgan back through 13 centuries did not affect his natural resourcefulness. Using his knowledge of an upcoming eclipse, Hank escapes a death sentence, and secures an important position at court. Gradually, he introduces 19th century technology so the clever Morgan soon has an easy life. That does not stop him from making disparaging, tongue-in-cheek remarks about the inequalities and imperfections of life in Camelot. Twain weaves many of the well-known Arthurian characters into his story, and he includes a pitched battle between Morgan's men and the nobility. Kenneth Jay's narration is a mix of good-natured bonhomie for Hank and more formal diction for the arcane Olde English speakers. Appropriate music is used throughout to indicate story breaks and add authenticity to scenes. This good quality recording is enhanced by useful liner notes and an attractive case. Younger listeners may need explanations of less familiar words, and some knowledge of the Knights of the Round Table will be helpful. Libraries completing an audiobook collection of Twain titles will enjoy this nice, but not necessary, abridgement.
Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
[Editor's Note: The following is a combined review with THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER.]--It's easy to imagine Samuel Clemens and Carl Reiner as best of friends, had not the one died 10 years before the other was born. Twain would have enjoyed Reiner's work in "Your Show of Shows," "The 2000 Year Old Man," and "The Dick Van Dyke Show," just as Reiner clearly appreciates Twain's humor. The appreciation comes across in Reiner's readings of these two historical farces. Despite the good humor and the best intentions, there's something unfortunately incongruous in the juxtaposition of Twain's stories with Reiner's voice. As warmly entertaining as it is to listen to Carl Reiner, his Bronx Jewish accent and intonation don't jibe well with Twain's Mississippi and New England style, or with the medieval English settings of these two novels. S.E.S. © AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
"The Yankee is a jewel. Nobody will ever be able to read, much less teach, it without this book."
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Mainly the Round Table talk was monologues -- narrative accounts of the adventures in which these prisoners were captured and their friends and backers killed and stripped of their steeds and armor. As a general thing -- as far as I could make out -- these murderous adventures were not forays undertaken to avenge injuries, nor to settle old disputes or sudden fallings out; no, as a rule they were simply duels between strangers.
It was in Warwick Castle that I came across the curious stranger whom I am going to talk about. He attracted me by three things: his candid simplicity, his marvelous familiarity with ancient armor, and the restfulness of his company - for he did all the talking. We fell together, as modest people will, in the tail of the herd that was being shown through, and he at once began to say things which interested me. As he talked along, softly, pleasantly, flowingly, he seemed to drift away imperceptibly out of this world and time, and into some remote era and old forgotten country; and so he gradually wove such a spell about me that I seemed to move among the specters and shadows and dust and mold of a gray antiquity, holding speech with a relic of it! Exactly as I would speak of my nearest personal friends or enemies, or my most familiar neighbors, he spoke of Sir Bedivere, Sir Bors de Ganis, Sir Launcelot of the Lake, Sir Galahad, and all the other great names of the Table Round - and how old, old, unspeakably old and faded and dry and musty and ancient he came to look as he went on! Presently he turned to me and said, just as one might speak of the weather, or any other common matter -
"You know about transmigration of souls; do you know about transposition of epochs - and bodies?"
I said I had not heard of it. He was so little inter ested - just as when people speak of the weather - that he did not notice whether I made him any answer or not. There was half a moment of silence, imme diately interrupted by the droning voice of the salaried cicerone:...
The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
Satirical novel by Mark Twain, published in 1889. It is the tale of a commonsensical Yankee who is carried back in time to Britain in the Dark Ages, and it celebrates homespun ingenuity and democratic values in contrast to the superstitious ineptitude of a feudal monarchy. Twain wrote it after reading Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur. Hank Morgan, a mechanic at a gun factory, is knocked unconscious and awakens in England in the year 528. He is captured and taken to Camelot, where he is put on exhibit before the knights of King Arthur's Round Table. He is condemned to death, but remembering having read of an eclipse on the day of his execution, he amazes the court by predicting the eclipse. It is decided that he is a sorcerer like Merlin, and he is made minister to the ineffectual king. In an effort to bring democratic principles and mechanical knowledge to the kingdom, he strings telephone wire, starts schools, trains mechanics, and teaches journalism. He also falls in love and marries. But when Hank tries to better the lot of the peasants, he meets opposition from many quarters. He and Arthur, in disguise, travel among the miserable common folk, are taken captive and sold as slaves, and only at the last second are rescued by 500 knights on bicycles. Hank and his family briefly retire to the seaside. When they return they find the kingdom engulfed in civil war, Arthur killed, and Hank's innovations abandoned. Hank is wounded, and Merlin, pretending to nurse him, casts a spell that puts him to sleep until the 19th century.
Card catalog description
A blow on the head transports a Yankee to 528 A.D. where he proceeds to modernize King Arthur's kingdom by organizing a school system, constructing telephone lines, and inventing the printing press.
From the Publisher
**Performed by 2001 Grammy-nominated Carl Reiner, nominated for his spoken work performance of Mark Twain's Letters from Earth. **
From the Back Cover
"Twain is the funniest literary American writer. . . . [I]t must have been a great pleasure to be him."
About the Author
Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri; his family moved to the port town of Hannibal four years later. His father, an unsuccessful farmer, died when Twain was eleven. Soon afterward the boy began working as an apprentice printer, and by age sixteen he was writing newspaper sketches. He left Hannibal at eighteen to work as an itinerant printer in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. From 1857 to 1861 he worked on Mississippi steamboats, advancing from cub pilot to licensed pilot.
After river shipping was interrupted by the Civil War, Twain headed west with his brother Orion, who had been appointed secretary to the Nevada Territory. Settling in Carson City, he tried his luck at prospecting and wrote humorous pieces for a range of newspapers. Around this time he first began using the pseudonym Mark Twain, derived from a riverboat term. Relocating to San Francisco, he became a regular newspaper correspondent and a contributor to the literary magazine the Golden Era. He made a five-month journey to Hawaii in 1866 and the following year traveled to Europe to report on the first organized tourist cruise. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches (1867) consolidated his growing reputation as humorist and lecturer.
After his marriage to Livy Langdon, Twain settled first in Buffalo, New York, and then for two decades in Hartfort, Connecticut. His European sketches were expanded into The Innocents Abroad (1869), followed by Roughing It (1872), an account of his Western adventures; both were enormously successful. Twain's literary triumphs were offset by often ill-advised business dealings (he sank thousands of dollars, for instance, in a failed attempt to develop a new kind of typesetting machine, and thousands more into his own ultimately unsuccessful publishing house) and unrestrained spending that left him in frequent financial difficulty, a pattern that was to persist throughout his life.
Following The Gilded Age (1873), written in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner, Twain began a literary exploration of his childhood memories of the Mississippi, resulting in a trio of masterpieces--The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Life on the Mississippi (1883), and finally The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), on which he had been working for nearly a decade. Another vein, of historical romance, found expression in The Prince and the Pauper (1882), the satirical A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896), while he continued to draw on his travel experiences in A Tramp Abroad (1880) and Following the Equator (1897). His close associates in these years included William Dean Howells, Bret Harte, and George Washington Cable, as well as the dying Ulysses S. Grant, whom Twain encouraged to complete his memoirs, published by Twain's publishing company in 1885.
For most of the 1890s Twain lived in Europe, as his life took a darker turn with the death of his daughter Susy in 1896 and the worsening illness of his daughter Jean. The tone of Twain's writing also turned progressively more bitter. The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894), a detective story hinging on the consequences of slavery, was followed by powerful anti-imperialist and anticolonial statements such as 'To the Person Sitting in Darkness' (1901), 'The War Prayer' (1905), and 'King Leopold's Soliloquy' (1905), and by the pessimistic sketches collected in the privately published What Is Man? (1906). The unfinished novel The Mysterious Stranger was perhaps the most uncompromisingly dark of all Twain's later works. In his last years, his financial troubles finally resolved, Twain settled near Redding, Connecticut, and died in his mansion, Stormfield, on April 21, 1910.
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