"The American Claimant is enormous fun. I'm here to celebrate the mad energy of this strange novel. In it we have the pleasure of seeing Mark Twain's imagination go berserk," writes Bobbie Ann Mason in her introduction. The American Claimant is a comedy of mistaken identities and multiple role switches--fertile and familiar Mark Twain territory. ...Read More"The American Claimant is enormous fun. I'm here to celebrate the mad energy of this strange novel. In it we have the pleasure of seeing Mark Twain's imagination go berserk," writes Bobbie Ann Mason in her introduction. The American Claimant is a comedy of mistaken identities and multiple role switches--fertile and familiar Mark Twain territory. Its cast of characters include an American enamored of British hereditary aristocracy and a British earl entranced by American democracy. The central character, Colonel Mulberry Sellers, is an irrepressible, buoyant mad scientist, Mason writes, "brimming with harebrained ideas. Nothing is impossible for him.... He's totally loopy." His voluble wackiness leaves the reader reeling in the wake of inventions that prefigure DNA cloning, fax machines, and photocopiers. Twain uses this over-the-top comic frame to explore some serious issues as well--such as the construction of self and identity, the role of the press in society, and the moral and social questions raised by capitalism and industrialization in the United States. A unique melange of science fiction and fantasy, romance, farce, and political satire, Twain's least-known comic novel is both thought-provoking and entertaining.Read Less
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'The American Claimant' is a preposterous sitcom from the American master of preposterosity, Mark Twain.
Col. Mulberry Sellers, a nutbag, claims he is rightful heir to the seat of an English earl. He threatens to sue the present earl to regain his title and lands.
The earl's son, meanwhile, has 'modern' ideas about the stigma of inherited wealth and position, says he wants to throw it all up. The silly young man goes to America to renounce his title, give his inheritance to the American claimant and make his own way in the world.
The situation, already grossly unlikely, is then resolved by a grossly unlikely train of coincidences: The young earl falls in love with the American claimant's beautiful, featherbrained daughter. His father, the stern and stolid present earl, approves. The nutbag American claimant approves. The young couple marry and are deliriously happy. Then the nutbag claimant suddenly finds himself vastly and independently wealthy. Hence he loses all interest in the English title and lands. Like a 19th century Al Gore, he sets out instead to buy a controlling interest in global climates and in the ownership of Siberia, Greenland, Iceland, and all of the sunspots on Sol.
So it is that 'The American Claimant' is not for serious readers nor is it for sane people generally. It's a romp for pathologically simple-minded people who are able to suspend all disbelief and laugh at comedic elements in a set of characters and situations that bear no resemblance to real life.
It seems to this writer that in 'The American Claimant,' Mark Twain somehow lost control of his narrative (or his mind). He stepped over the line that separates parody from absurdity and for whatever reason could not pull back. The ending is more of a train wreck than a resolution.
Solomon sez: 'The American Claimant' is a stinker in which one finds a few amusing situations and some clever lines floating, like bits of crackers, adrift in a soup of drivel. Maybe for you but not for me.
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