I was told that Mark Twain’s The Diaries of Adam and Eve was going to be a swift and deliciously amusing read, and indeed it was—and yet it ended up being a little deeper than I had anticipated, and, by the end, actually touching.
Below is the wee review I did at Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1072845438.
The extracts from Adam's diary, which has each page of brief text paired with a gently humorous Strothmann illustration of a sometimes-broken tablet of a cartoon in rather Sumerian style, is sure to make many a beleaguered husband smile. Apparently jokes on the talkativeness of wives, the desirability of loafing on the weekend, and similar matters began around 4004 B.C. Really, though, it is all in good fun. And after the Fall, when Adam comes back from a trapping expedition on the north shore of the Erie, it is amusing indeed to see the clueless man's attempts at puzzling out exactly what is this strange little human-like creature that Eve claims to have found. Perhaps it is a fish, thinks he, and thus naturally he chucks it in the water to check--and yet for some reason Eve snatches the thing out most indignantly. From there on, it is a long, sleepless series of months...
Following Adam's diary extracts are Eve's, illustrated page by page with straightforward but charming woodcuts or engravings by Lester Ralph. In a nice twist, rather than remaining something of the butt of the joke, the former rib of the first diarist now comes into her own. Whereas in Adam's account she can come off as a pesky, unreasonable nuisance, Eve shows herself to be, although occasionally distracted, the emotional yin to Adam's unimaginative intellectual yang. In Adam's account, for example, when he tries to escape from "the new creature" and then, when found, simply leaves it out in the rain with water coming out of the holes it sees with rather than let it into his new shelter, the incident is presented as a minor though somewhat perplexing annoyance. In Eve's account, however, we now see actual human emotion rather than mere slapstick, and we begin to notice that simple male self-centeredness may not always be the most hilarious thing in the world.
Indeed, the growing maturation of the characters, deftly handled by the wry Twain, is an unexpected pleasure of this brief, easily read volume. Eve's musings on the nature of love, for example, are homely and touching, as is her final prayer that when death comes, it come first for her instead of Adam, "for he is strong, I am weak, I am not so necessary to him as he is to me--life without him would not be life; how could I endure it?" And yet just when we think the husband rather an unworthy clod, the final pair of pages, with an achingly solemn Lester Ralph illustration and a single heartfelt line from Adam, poignantly show that he has learned what it means to be human, too...
5 October 2014