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Mark Twain’s Helpful Hints for Good Living

A Handbook for the Damned Human Race

Mark Twain (Author), Lin Salamo (Editor), Michael Barry Frank (Editor), Victor Fischer (Editor)


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Irreverent, charming, eminently quotable, this handbook—an eccentric etiquette guide for the human race—contains sixty-nine aphorisms, anecdotes, whimsical suggestions, maxims, and cautionary tales from Mark Twain's private and published writings. It dispenses advice and reflections on family life and public manners; opinions on topics such as dress, health, food, and childrearing and safety; and more specialized tips, such as those for dealing with annoying salesmen and burglars. Culled from Twain's personal letters, autobiographical writings, speeches, novels, and sketches, these pieces are delightfully fresh, witty, startlingly relevant, and bursting with Twain's characteristic ebullience for life. They also remind us exactly how Mark Twain came to be the most distinctive and well-known American literary voice in the world. These texts, some of them new or out of print for decades, have been selected and meticulously prepared by the editors at the Mark Twain Project.
List of Illustrations

1. Everyday Etiquette
A Letter of Apology
About the Effect of Intemperate Language
Be Good, Be Good. A Poem
An Innovative Dinner Party Signal System
About American Manners
Breaking It Gently
Courtesy to Unexpected Visitors
At the Funeral
A Telephonic Conversation

2. Modest Proposals and Judicious Complaints
A Christmas Wish
Proposal Regarding Local Flooding
Complaint about Unreliable Service
Notice about a Stolen Umbrella
An Appeal against Injudicious Swearing
An Unwanted Magazine Subscription
On Telephones and Swearing
About the Proposed Street-Widening
Political Economy
Notice. To the Next Burglar
Suggestion to Persons Entering Heaven

3. The American Table
Memories of Food on an American Farm
American versus European Food
An Inauspicious Meal
A Remarkable Dinner
Food and Scenery

4. Travel Manners
Traveling in Close Quarters
Communicating with the Locals
A Night Excursion in a Hotel Room

5. Health and Diet
Young Sam Clemens and Old-Time Doctoring
The "Wake-Up-Jake"
A Healthful Cocktail
A Miracle Cure
Experience of the McWilliamses with Membranous Croup
Smoking, Diet, and Health at Age Seventy

6. Parenting and the Ethical Child
The Late Benjamin Franklin
On Theft and Conscience
On Training Children
A Sampling of Childish Ethics
Youthful Misdemeanors
Advice to Youth

7. Clothes, Fashion, and Style
A Fashion Item
The Hand of Fashion
That White Suit
Clothes and Deception
A Sumptuous Robe

8. In Case of Emergency
Playing "Bear"
An Apparition
The Great Earthquake in San Francisco
Escape of the Tarantulas
Burglary and the Well-Tempered Householder
Under a Policeman’s Eye

About the Texts
Works Cited
Lin Salamo, Victor Fischer, and Michael B. Frank are editors at the Mark Twain Project of The Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley.
"This is a welcome new way of seeing Twain see himself, and we are grateful to the Mark Twain Project for visualizing and organizing it so well. One conjectures that the great man himself would have approved."—Barbara Bamberger Scott Curled Up With A Good Book
“Irreverent, charming, eminently quotable.”—
“Those readers who are familiar with only the Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer adventures may be pleasantly surprised at the massive body of Twain material this book samples and is yet waiting for them to discover. The relatively inexpensive price of under $20 combined with the selected items of fresh material makes it a nice gift for the scholar's bookshelf as well.”—Barbara Schmidt Mark Twain Forum
"Few collections could be wiser, funnier, or more, well, sane than Mark Twain's Helpful Hints for Good Living. . . . Twain may have been dead for nearly a century, but the careful sting of his eminently quotable prose will continue to live long after the Sonic Youth concert has emptied out, instant messaging has fallen by the wayside, and the workplace fridge raider has been sternly warned away from your Black Forest ham sandwich."—Peter Smith O: The Oprah Magazine
“This book is a delightful read all the way through, and the volume's 36 photographs, some previously unpublished, make it even better."—David Armstrong San Francisco Chronicle
"This wonderful book illustrates precisely why we can never have enough Twain. His humor is timeless, his wisdom about all things without equal."—Ken Burns

"Mark Twain's Helpful Hints for Good Living is a real discovery as well as a delight. It brings us fresh material from an old friend, and rediscovers great moments from the long shelves of his published writings. It's the best, most reliable collection of Mark Twain as social observer, moralist, and comic genius."—Bruce Michelson, author of Mark Twain on the Loose and Literary Wit

"A delightful display of Mark Twain's wit and humor loosely tied together under the guise of an advice book. Containing some things old, some things new, some things borrowed (in parody), but nothing blue, this charming collection of old favorites and new releases will guide you through life's exigencies in fine spirits, if not in fine form. Twain's advice occasionally touches the sublime, but only in the form of the ridiculous. This is the perfect gift book for any aficionado of Mark Twain, any connoisseur of the risible, or any stuffed-shirt who needs to lighten up."—Gregg Camfield, author of The Oxford Companion to Mark Twain

"Twain came to understand himself as 'a moralist in disguise,' and this collection reveals that truth clearly, without jettisoning any of his humor. If you are wrestling with how to advance stimulating dinner conversation, what to do with unwanted magazine subscriptions, how to deal with the 'odious flummery' of fashion, or whether or not to bring your dog to the next funeral, Twain is here to offer his gentle guidance. Old chestnuts and surprising obscurities are provided in a refreshed context through the rich and illuminating annotations of the ever brilliant editorial team at the Mark Twain Papers."—John Boyer, executive director of The Mark Twain House and Museum

This book serves up an elegant taste of Mark Twain's love for the food of the American South, spiced generously with his celebrated wit. Food lovers and humorists alike will revel in the timeless wisdom gathered here.—Nathalie Dupree, television host and author of Nathalie Dupree's Southern Memories

"This is a masterfully edited compendium that does Twain proud. It captures the note-taking, aphorism-creating, angry-letter-writing essence of Twain's brain in a way essential, I think, to understanding the man, and by extension, the history of the United States and the nature of life on Earth."—Dave Eggers, editor of McSweeney's

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