I Finished It

I am so bummed to be done. I’m glad the Butcher took the dog to the park, both so I had the time to finish Life on the Mississippi and so there was no one home to annoy when I laughed out loud a number of times.

My favorite part is when he is preparing you for reading “The Undying Head” and describes it thusly, “‘The Undying Head’ is a rather long tale, but it makes up in weird conceits, fairy-tale prodigies, variety of incident, and energy of movement, for what it lacks in brevity.” Weird conceits, fairy-tale prodigies, variety of incident, and energy of movement are my favorite things in a story.

But my second favorite part is where the Indian maiden–and I think to really get how funny this is you have to understand that you literally cannot take five steps in the Midwest without encountering a spot where an Indian maiden supposedly committed suicide. Honestly, the suicide rate of ancient Indian maidens is such in Midwestern lore that it’s a wonder there were any Indians left there when our great-grandparents emerged out of the earth, wholly formed. Possibly this is why no Illinoisan asks where the Illini went. Obviously, the maidens all committed suicide and the men died of broken hearts and old age. Possibly this is also why Michiganders are so surprised when one of the local tribes wants to put up a casino. “Oh, you’re still here? Really? But I thought…”–anyway, the Indian maiden is distraught about having to marry a guy other than the one she loves so she goes up to the top of the highest rock, casts herself down and lands on her parents, killing them, and thus, after she recovers from the fall, goes on to marry her beloved.

Twain says, “there is a startling kind of dramatic surprise about it which I was not looking for. It is a distinct improvement upon the threadbare form of Indian legend. There are fifty Lover’s Leaps along the Mississippi from whose summit disappointed Indian girls have jumped, but this is the only jump in the lot that turned out in the right and satisfactory way.”

I am not embarrassed to admit that I howled when I read that. And then he goes on to complain about a blanket. Well, about a story about a blanket.

Honestly writers in the United States. What are we aiming for when we sit down to write that Twain hasn’t already hit?

I think this is my favorite book, ever. Ever, ever. I love it so much.