An account with multiple protagonists, the mighty Mississippi itself, a young Mark Twain, and a number of tall tales about people Twain met on his travels, this humorous travel memoir is a glimpse of the South, specifically New Orleans to St. Louis, mostly after the Civil War.

Half Twain! Quarter Twain! MARK Twain! A young Samuel Clemens took the boating term as his own name in 1863, a few years after he became an apprentice under steamboat captain Horace Bixby. Initially repelled by all he had to learn, Twain eventually memorizes every nook and cranny of that river, both above and below the waterline, in light and in darkness. His romantic childhood notions of piloting the river fulfilled, Twain admits to losing the romanticism he once had, but gains it again for the reader when he returns as an adult, candorously relating the lives and stories of Americans who live along that mighty river.

As this is generally a non-fiction, it often feels disjointed and rambling, especially in regards to details of local geography, and even politics and economics. But the gem lies in the amusing and cheeky take on the established folklore of the area, and the new ones he’s put down here. If you want to know the real inspiration behind Huck Finn, especially where it fits within the American legend, Twain provides all the details you’ll ever need in this volume.

“Unquestionably the discovery of the Mississippi is a datable fact which considerably mellows and modifies the shiny newness of our country, and gives her a most respectable outside-aspect of rustiness and antiquity.”