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Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings (Perennial Classics)

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"I have told you nothing about man that is not true." You must pardon me if I repeat that remark now and then in these letters; I want you to take seriously the things I am telling you, and I feel that if I were in your place and you in mine, I should need that reminder from time to time, to keep my credulity from flagging.In Letters from the Earth, Twain presents himself "I have told you nothing about man that is not true." You must pardon me if I repeat that remark now and then in these letters; I want you to take seriously the things I am telling you, and I feel that if I were in your place and you in mine, I should need that reminder from time to time, to keep my credulity from flagging.In Letters from the Earth, Twain presents himself as the Father of History -- reviewing and interpreting events from the Garden of Eden through the Fall and the Flood, translating the papers of Adam and his descendants through the generations. First published fifty years after his death, this eclectic collection is vintage Twain: sharp, witty, imaginative, complex, and wildly funny.


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"I have told you nothing about man that is not true." You must pardon me if I repeat that remark now and then in these letters; I want you to take seriously the things I am telling you, and I feel that if I were in your place and you in mine, I should need that reminder from time to time, to keep my credulity from flagging.In Letters from the Earth, Twain presents himself "I have told you nothing about man that is not true." You must pardon me if I repeat that remark now and then in these letters; I want you to take seriously the things I am telling you, and I feel that if I were in your place and you in mine, I should need that reminder from time to time, to keep my credulity from flagging.In Letters from the Earth, Twain presents himself as the Father of History -- reviewing and interpreting events from the Garden of Eden through the Fall and the Flood, translating the papers of Adam and his descendants through the generations. First published fifty years after his death, this eclectic collection is vintage Twain: sharp, witty, imaginative, complex, and wildly funny.

30 review for Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings (Perennial Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    This is our next book club selection, and I'm loving it as much this second reading as I did when I first found this little gem over 30 years ago. Twain had said it couldn't be published, and I can see why. Not many in his time period would have liked the idea of Satan being on earth and writing scathing satirical letters back to his buddies in "heaven" about the condition of humankind. This is a thin little volume, but my version is getting lots of highlighting. His criticism of humanity is as t This is our next book club selection, and I'm loving it as much this second reading as I did when I first found this little gem over 30 years ago. Twain had said it couldn't be published, and I can see why. Not many in his time period would have liked the idea of Satan being on earth and writing scathing satirical letters back to his buddies in "heaven" about the condition of humankind. This is a thin little volume, but my version is getting lots of highlighting. His criticism of humanity is as timely today as it was in his own era--maybe moreso. One of the ideas that always makes me laugh aloud is that humans have invented a "heaven" where everyone sings and plays harps. However, Satan points out, hardly ANYONE on earth can sing well or play an instrument of any kind. He and Kurt Vonnegut are kindred spirits--they are soft-hearted curmudgeons who criticize all the flaws in the human race BECAUSE they believe/hope/wish we could be better than we are.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anand

    Brilliant. The failure and hypocrisy of religion and out puny imagination of God, Heaven and Hell leaves mankind exposed and ordinary.

  3. 5 out of 5

    John

    Nearing the end of Mark Twain's life, he wrote a series of humorous essays on Judeo-Christian theology, including The Diaries of Adam and Eve and Letters from Earth, which were posthumously published. In the book Satan, who still resides with the rest of the heavenly hosts, takes a trip to Earth. This book consists of eleven letters he writes back to archangels Gabriel and Michael with his thoughts on humanity, Judeo-Christian scripture and morality. When Mark Twain wrote these essays, he was de Nearing the end of Mark Twain's life, he wrote a series of humorous essays on Judeo-Christian theology, including The Diaries of Adam and Eve and Letters from Earth, which were posthumously published. In the book Satan, who still resides with the rest of the heavenly hosts, takes a trip to Earth. This book consists of eleven letters he writes back to archangels Gabriel and Michael with his thoughts on humanity, Judeo-Christian scripture and morality. When Mark Twain wrote these essays, he was deeply in debt, had just lost his wife and one of his daughters; therefore, one can imagine that he might be despondent. I believe, like many, Twain was trying to understand a God who would allow evil to exist and to reconcile the divinity as portrayed in the Old Testament with that in the New Testament. Regarding the day of worship, Twain states: To forty-nine in fifty, the Sabbath Day is a dreary, dreary bore...The gladdened moment for all of them is when the preacher uplifts his hands for the benediction. You can hear the soft rustle of relief that sweeps the house, and you recognize that is its eloquent with gratitude. Later, Twain quips regarding the inconsistency between one of the Ten Commandments and God's campaign against the Moabites through Moses: ...it was God himself who said: "Thou shalt not kill." Then it is plain that he cannot keep his own commandments. Both C.S. Lewis and Mark Twain were atheists at one time or another. C.S. Lewis became an apologist (defender) of the Christian faith while evidently Mark Twain, even those he was buried in a Presbyterian cemetery, never renounced his atheism. Whether you are an atheist or a Christian, there is something for all in this short novel. For example, Mark Twain's retelling of Noah and the great flood had me chuckling. If you are easily offended with someone outlining some of the inconsistencies in Holy Scripture, you might want to skip this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    Christopher Hitchens, eat your heart out. "God is Not Great" is a fantastic dissection of the stupidities of some religions, chiefly among them Judaism and Christianity, but this short collection of letters, I think, trumps whatever Hitchens has said about Christianity and Judaism in not only its entertainment but in its, as the back of the book describes, "cold dissection" of the religions. Christopher Hitchens, eat your heart out. "God is Not Great" is a fantastic dissection of the stupidities of some religions, chiefly among them Judaism and Christianity, but this short collection of letters, I think, trumps whatever Hitchens has said about Christianity and Judaism in not only its entertainment but in its, as the back of the book describes, "cold dissection" of the religions.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Malum

    Mark Twain raw. The scathing indictment of Christianity along with Twain's mastery of observational humor put me in mind of George Carlin. Mark Twain raw. The scathing indictment of Christianity along with Twain's mastery of observational humor put me in mind of George Carlin.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Johnrh

    This is a humorous satire on Man's notion of religion, written from the viewpoint of God's Archangels. Although it's not a very long work it is best savored a few letters at a time as it starts off VERY funny and seems to me quite bitter and sarcastic at the end. A friend who is a Twain Scholar told me that Twain's wife would not allow him to publish it during his lifetime. She was very religious and since Twain dearly loved his wife he complied. I'm sure at the end of the 19th century the Lette This is a humorous satire on Man's notion of religion, written from the viewpoint of God's Archangels. Although it's not a very long work it is best savored a few letters at a time as it starts off VERY funny and seems to me quite bitter and sarcastic at the end. A friend who is a Twain Scholar told me that Twain's wife would not allow him to publish it during his lifetime. She was very religious and since Twain dearly loved his wife he complied. I'm sure at the end of the 19th century the Letters would have been considered sacrilegious if not outright blasphemous. Thank goodness that in this day and age, at least in the Christianity-based, Western "Civilized" world, we can read things like this with tongue-in-cheek and not worry that a Fatwa will be issued for the death of the author or ourselves.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    Twain wit at its best! Immensely fun to read at the same time as I am reading the Bible as piece of literature. Twain ridicules humanity, our relationship to God punctuating the discordance between what the bible says and how the world is. Very quotable - at one point I realized that I couldn't highlight the entire book. Warning -- sacrilegious, irreverent. If that kind of thing upsets you don't read it. Twain wit at its best! Immensely fun to read at the same time as I am reading the Bible as piece of literature. Twain ridicules humanity, our relationship to God punctuating the discordance between what the bible says and how the world is. Very quotable - at one point I realized that I couldn't highlight the entire book. Warning -- sacrilegious, irreverent. If that kind of thing upsets you don't read it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tegan

    Omg This should be required reading for American citizenship. It eases the cognitive dissonance between Thomas Jefferson's declaration of independence and the way he funded his bullshit trash mansion- by breeding slaves to sell. America is a Christian nation and this is its deity. Mark Twain hit the nail on the head with this one. Omg This should be required reading for American citizenship. It eases the cognitive dissonance between Thomas Jefferson's declaration of independence and the way he funded his bullshit trash mansion- by breeding slaves to sell. America is a Christian nation and this is its deity. Mark Twain hit the nail on the head with this one.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Twain's writing is so eloquent, sarcastic, and humorous as he scathes the ridiculousness of Christianity and the Bible. With cool logic and scientific facts, he assails the very idea that God is loving and merciful. I WISH I had read this as a teenager - it would have spared me years of deception! Twain's writing is so eloquent, sarcastic, and humorous as he scathes the ridiculousness of Christianity and the Bible. With cool logic and scientific facts, he assails the very idea that God is loving and merciful. I WISH I had read this as a teenager - it would have spared me years of deception!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    My gawd, I am loving this book! Utterly irreverent, yes. And excellent. As with Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. Quite the set of essays. I like. A lot. And rational. And humorous, of course. Started more strongly than it ended but still 4 stars. My gawd, I am loving this book! Utterly irreverent, yes. And excellent. As with Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. Quite the set of essays. I like. A lot. And rational. And humorous, of course. Started more strongly than it ended but still 4 stars.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christiane

    I didn’t like this satire, not because of its content but because of its tone. It starts off quite humorously but Mark Twain quickly loses his cool and becomes angry and vitriolic. I think Bill Maher does it better.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shubham Jain

    It's hard to believe this kind of work could be published in 1940s. A brutal gibe at theism, Mark Twain helps us understand most mythical beliefs are nonsensical. The book chiefly concerns itself with Christianity and the Bible but arguments can just as easily be applied to any religion. It's hard to believe this kind of work could be published in 1940s. A brutal gibe at theism, Mark Twain helps us understand most mythical beliefs are nonsensical. The book chiefly concerns itself with Christianity and the Bible but arguments can just as easily be applied to any religion.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gianni WhiteBeard

    He is Twain... A well written letters by Satan, describing the foolishness of human race considering their concept of the creature and the universe.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Reesha

    This man is not just irreverent, he is absolutely furious. Clemens seems to have started out poking fun at the ridiculous inconsistencies within Christian beliefs, and how silly humans can be. But as the letters go on, it becomes clear that he was actually angry with "God" himself. The letters became less genius satire about what some humans brainwash themselves or others into believing and more personal damning of the things "God" has "actually done". In addition, the misogyny is a rampant and di This man is not just irreverent, he is absolutely furious. Clemens seems to have started out poking fun at the ridiculous inconsistencies within Christian beliefs, and how silly humans can be. But as the letters go on, it becomes clear that he was actually angry with "God" himself. The letters became less genius satire about what some humans brainwash themselves or others into believing and more personal damning of the things "God" has "actually done". In addition, the misogyny is a rampant and difficult slog. One would think Satan, a literal Angel, would barely even notice a difference among human genders. I think this is an important piece of literary history and should be read more widely, but I also feel Clemens would have done much better to keep his personal anger at "God" out of the story and allow Satan to fully explore the perplexing hilarity he saw in the behaviour of humans. As written, Satan himself seems bitter about "God's" past actions, which does not fit in with the conceit that he is reporting back on pretend and silly things humans have thought up.

  15. 5 out of 5

    T. Read

    Moments of brilliance, hilarity, and honesty shine in an otherwise nonessential reading in Twain’s bibliography. The Letters from the Earth, the section on etiquette, The Damned Human Race, and The Great Dark we’re all quite entertaining, specifically. The rest? Much like collected essays of other satirists I’ve read, one realizes how often they use the same jokes and references across multiple pieces. It diminishes the genius a bit. But otherwise, still a good read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Truthfully? This could’ve been written yesterday. I understand why this wasn’t published until the 60’s, it would cause a scandal today just as it would have when it was written. If I had been given this to read in school rather than Tom Sawyer, I probably wouldn’t have spent most of my adulthood avoiding his works.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Cavazos

    Mark Twain is hilarious! I found his writing witty and cynical. He does a good job pointing out hypocrisy and comes up with ideas I would never think of. I took off 1 star because some parts were tedious to get through, but overall this was a short entertaining read. I found myself laughing out loud a couple times.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kim Willis

    All Christians should read this short book. Wow, I didn't know Twain and I thought alike. Very interesting observations on religion. It just may change your view of god, at least in those that have some intelligence. There is the politically incorrect use of the N word in this book, but remember it was written in an earlier time. All Christians should read this short book. Wow, I didn't know Twain and I thought alike. Very interesting observations on religion. It just may change your view of god, at least in those that have some intelligence. There is the politically incorrect use of the N word in this book, but remember it was written in an earlier time.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Reed Carlson

    I liked this book a good bit. Twain is clever, yet I can sense his (hopefully intentional) misunderstanding of free will. Would recommend and will probably read again in the future. Sort of like the Screwtape Letters before CS Lewis’ time.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bibliogrub

    Started off playful and calm but slowly grew into anger which probably was already boiling underneath the first few pages and ended with Mark Twain giving you a murderous stare as he slowly steps back into the shadows as if to say "I'll leave you with that. Think about it." 🙃 Started off playful and calm but slowly grew into anger which probably was already boiling underneath the first few pages and ended with Mark Twain giving you a murderous stare as he slowly steps back into the shadows as if to say "I'll leave you with that. Think about it." 🙃

  21. 5 out of 5

    Linda L.

    Dark Twain Sardonic dark humor and insight. The human race laid bare, warts and all. Humanity viewed through the unblinking eye of a perceptive, eloquent, irreverent artist… and judge.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Louie Deblanc

    Letters from the Earth, from Satan. Mark Twain’s twist on religion, his idea of god in particular, told from the perspective of Satan. Interesting read but wandering and garbled at times.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Allen-Peat

    Good book, full of many great ideas. I would have given it a higher rating, but Twain *really* belabours the point. After awhile it just isn’t as entertaining as you might think. Read it for the ideas, not for the entertainment value.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Oliver

    There’s no way Twain wasn’t high and projecting his personal problems… his logic and rhetoric in questioning humanity, as well as the frame in which he does so, seems legit, but damn did this guy seem like he had weirdo problems..

  25. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    I read this! Thanks Mr. Haig! All I remember is that it's a satirical piece about religion written from Satan's perspective. I might have liked it. My vague memory of liking it will make me give it 4 stars. I give out 4 stars too easily. I read this! Thanks Mr. Haig! All I remember is that it's a satirical piece about religion written from Satan's perspective. I might have liked it. My vague memory of liking it will make me give it 4 stars. I give out 4 stars too easily.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Phua1

    "The best cure for Christianity is reading the Bible." - Mark Twain "The best cure for Christianity is reading the Bible." - Mark Twain

  27. 4 out of 5

    Patty

    I was impressed with the witty humor and unabashed honesty of Twain in this compilation of previously unpublished writings by the master of American satire, Mark Twain. Whether expounding on relegion, politics or just plain life, Twain always reverts back to the simple facts of human nature. I could almost see him sitting on stage, smoking a cigar and entertaining an audience with his precocious intellect. He easily convinced me that "man is incurably foolish. And on the ladder of development, t I was impressed with the witty humor and unabashed honesty of Twain in this compilation of previously unpublished writings by the master of American satire, Mark Twain. Whether expounding on relegion, politics or just plain life, Twain always reverts back to the simple facts of human nature. I could almost see him sitting on stage, smoking a cigar and entertaining an audience with his precocious intellect. He easily convinced me that "man is incurably foolish. And on the ladder of development, the human being is at the bottom stage, with only the Frenchman below us." The only story I had a problem understanding was the last in this compliation, "the Great Dark" which could also have been called, Which was the Dream? As a great storyteller, Twain must have had innumerable ideas and scenarios floating around in his head. I would have liked this very involved story completed by the master himself rather then by the learned editor or left to my stunted imagination. Certainly Twain was a man born before his time. Otherwise, why were these papers and writings kept from the public for twenty years after his death by his daughter who thought that they "presented a distorteed view of her father's ideas and attitudes." Likewise, his "Complete and Authoritative Edition" autobiography is finally being printed this month, 100 years after his death, as he requested. It will be interesting to see if Samuel Clemens is accepted as seriously as Mark Twain intended.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Hank Pharis

    Twain's father was a Deist and his mother was a Presbyterian. And he is not surprisingly all over the map regarding matters of faith. I have three more books about this that I hope to read and there are two sides to this story. But most people are more familiar with his skepticism. For example he infamously said things like: "Faith is believing what you know ain't so" and "If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be - a Christian." From what I've observed thus far there were three Twain's father was a Deist and his mother was a Presbyterian. And he is not surprisingly all over the map regarding matters of faith. I have three more books about this that I hope to read and there are two sides to this story. But most people are more familiar with his skepticism. For example he infamously said things like: "Faith is believing what you know ain't so" and "If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be - a Christian." From what I've observed thus far there were three issues that Twain struggled with: 1) Hypocrisy; 2) The seeming irrationality of much Christian belief; 3) The problem of evil. Twain wrote this book when he was at a very low point in his life and it was not released until 52 years after his death. It is almost his personal "Bible." He writes a sort of creation narrative, critiques Christianity and explains some of what he believes. Twain knew the stories of the Bible but he most often twisted or missed their meaning. In this book he says of the Bible: "It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some cleaver fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity, and upwards of a thousand lies." The book does reveal more about Twain's "religious" views but it is sad, depressing and sometimes blasphemous.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Johan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Where do I begin...? I am sure in the 60s this was groundbreaking, but in this day an age you can find the same anti-christian ramblings on Reddit. However that is not my biggest concern: My biggest concern is how this little book goes from being funny to just be an angry rant against the idea of God. I liked a chapter in the beginning where Satan wonders why mankind would want to get into heaven? On earth, most people can't sing or play an instrument. And they only go to church once a week for ab Where do I begin...? I am sure in the 60s this was groundbreaking, but in this day an age you can find the same anti-christian ramblings on Reddit. However that is not my biggest concern: My biggest concern is how this little book goes from being funny to just be an angry rant against the idea of God. I liked a chapter in the beginning where Satan wonders why mankind would want to get into heaven? On earth, most people can't sing or play an instrument. And they only go to church once a week for about two hours before heading home. Imagine going to a place where every human who has ever lived does excactly that for all eternity! Billions of unskilled musicians playing the harp and singing out-of-tune "Halleluuujah, halleluuuujah!!!" Oh, and btw, no one is fucking in heaven! Does that sound like a place you wanna go to after death? But later on in the book, he delivers a rant on how "Thou shalt not kill" makes no sense because God is killing a bunch of people in the Old Testament. That part could've been funny or thought-provoking, even! But it's neither, it's just Mark rambling on how that does not make sense AND it's not really that new of a thought, especially in this day and age. If you wanna read philosophy which heavily critizes christianity, I say go read David Hume instead.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Janet Gardner

    This short book, written late in Twain’s life and published posthumously, suggests a somewhat angry and mean-spirited writer—perhaps one whose old age is not turning out as he had hoped—so different in tone from the earlier Twain that so many of us know and love. It purports to be a series of letters penned on a visit to Earth by Lucifer (still an angel, but contemplating his big rebellion) to some fellow residents of heaven. Lucifer is astonished to discover a human race that continues to prais This short book, written late in Twain’s life and published posthumously, suggests a somewhat angry and mean-spirited writer—perhaps one whose old age is not turning out as he had hoped—so different in tone from the earlier Twain that so many of us know and love. It purports to be a series of letters penned on a visit to Earth by Lucifer (still an angel, but contemplating his big rebellion) to some fellow residents of heaven. Lucifer is astonished to discover a human race that continues to praise God lavishly even while looking at His apparent unfairness and unreliability. (The central questions raised are the old ones: How could a kind and loving God allow so much suffering? Why do people continue to give God credit for all good in the world and no blame for the bad?) Not having a religious mindset myself, it’s easy enough for me to agree with a lot of what Twain says here, but in the end, the book was just too snarky for my taste (or at least my current mood). Of course it’s well written--it is Twain, after all--but I just couldn’t quite enjoy it as I had hoped.

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