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The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (Penguin Classics)

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The Gilded Age, says Justin D. Kaplan in his covering introduction, its "the most savage satire on democracy that American literature has to offer." Published in 1873, it was Mark Twain's first assay at sustained fiction, written in collaboration with … see full wiki

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Publisher: Penguin Classics
1 review about The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (Penguin...

Shockingly modern

  • Nov 15, 2011
Twain (and often-overlooked coauthor Charles Dudley Warner) subtitled this profound satire "A tale of today", and in its prescience it is profoundly and even shockingly modern.  Real estate booms and busts, political corruption, energy exploration frauds, celebrity culture, celebrity criminal trials as "reality" entertainment--its all here, in powerful yet powerfully restrained Twainian 3-D. Perhaps it was Warner's influence (at the time of publication early in Twain's career considered the author more likely to have a lasting impact, a bonehead play of Dewey Wins!" proportions) that kept Twain bound from his more comedic and exaggerational leaps of prose, and the story is both stronger, more truly humorous at that intersection of real life and pain where incongruity forces laughter or tears, and more timely and timelessly serious than most Twain.  

The story is set on the "western" frontier of Tennessee and Missouri in the decades following the  horrors of the American Civil War, when politics and economy looked for a golden age while staggering from slow-healing wounds, all eyes were on the "main chance", and all things that seemed golden at a distance turned out to be just the thin veneer of the gilding Twain and Warner so aptly named in the title that became the tagline for the era.  The Hawkins family, driven by the passion for progress that marked the era, hoped for high returns on low investments but struggled from place to place as reality always left them short.  The characters are drawn briefly but deeply enough to avoid caricature even though they also stand duty as icons of the age as painted by Twain and Dudley.  The love stories are at once poignant, funny, and ultimately victims of the Gilded Age just like the characters and fortunes of the Hawkins family.

The Gilded Age stands up today as political satire, cultural commentary, American essay, and literature.  It is indeed shockingly modern and a true classic.

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February 07, 2012
Great book for historians everywhere !
November 15, 2011
Oh wow. This book sounds trippy. I will have to check it out!
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