THE DIARIES OF ADAM AND EVE
Translated by Mark Twain
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
I feel sorry for those who have only read Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in school, for they have had the worst possible introduction to one of the greatest authors in the English language and have missed reading a wide range of satirical and introspective books, essays and stories. Several years ago, I came across a story, “The Diaries of Adam and Eve” in a copy of Charles Neider’s The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain.
Originally written as two pieces which Twain later expanded, revised and merged together, The Diaries of Adam and Eve purports to be a record of the lives of the first humans. Fine Oaks Press has taken the pieces, added an introduction and afterward and presented them in a handsome hardbound volume with several illustrations throughout. Furthermore, they have released the complete work on tape and CD as well by Betty Buckley and Mandy Patinkin, with Walter Cronkite reading the extra material.
The Diaries of Adam and Eve contains a good sample of Twain wry humor and his observations on the human condition. He portrays Adam as a man who would as soon sit around and do nothing, but whose curiosity eventually gets the better of him once it is sparked by Eve. Eve is seen as a curious woman who wants to understand everything around her and has the need to share it with any person who will listen, limited, at first, to Adam, who is passably indifferent to Eve and her passions.
The choice of Betty Buckley for Eve underscores how difficult it is to cast this role. While Buckley’s voice holds the perfect quality of naiveté when Adam and Eve are living in the Garden and is discovering the world they have been given. At the same time, it fails to capture the satire and sarcasm which is endemic to Twain’s writing. The true brilliance of Buckley’s performance comes when she is describing the outcome of Cain’s attack on Abel with a mixture of parental concern and the naiveté which colors her understanding of the world.
Mandy Patinkin gives a typically understated performance as Adam, which fits admirably with the idle nature with which Twain has imbued the first man. Adam’s role is smaller that Eve, however, and Patinkin almost comes across as a support character rather than a lead.
For anyone who watched Walter Cronkite on the CBS news in the sixties and seventies, there is something about his voice that immediately labels something as being important, a feature missing in so many of today’s anchors. His reading the introduction and afterward to The Diaries of Adam and Eve come across with a sense of gravitas. Despite knowledge that this is merely a satirical look at human nature, Cronkite’s voice elevates Twains writing into a glimpse back to the origins of mankind.
The audio version of The Diaries of Adam and Eve is a nice production, however by its very nature it does not lend itself to the close inspection a book does. Given Twain humor, which is more often subtle than broad, the printed version is a welcome addition since it allows the reader to fully understand what Twain is trying to imply and the manner in which he does so.
Both versions include a brief forward and a longer afterword which serve to offer the reader background if they are interested.
I would like to thank Brenda Clough for bringing this edition and the audio based upon it to my attention.
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