Source: Librivox (direct link)
Reader: Steve Anderson
Time: 13 hrs, 43 min
The book: On writing the title for this post, I chuckled when I realized that the postal code for Connecticut and court are the same. I don't think Twain intended this abbreviated pun, but I think he'd be amused by it nonetheless. Twain didn't use puns too often in his humor; he preferred getting his laughs from placing outlandish characters into difficult circumstances then watching them weasel their way out.
In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Twain does just that -- he magically transports the titular Yankee, Hank Morgan, into the mythical world of King Arthur and sets him up to be burned at the stake. The plot is nothing more than a constant rehash of this same type of set-up and escape, but the character is what is most memorable about the book. Twain has a talent for making his characters simultaneously over-the-top and real, creating a person both exasperating and fascinating. Hank, as "The Boss", is constantly making grand plans and trying to convince his medieval compatriots to adopt a late 19th century lifestyle. You'd love to be friends with Hank, so long as you didn't have to spend an entire evening talking with (or listening to) him.
Apart from the unforgettable characters, the other hallmark of Twain's works is his misanthropy. Toward the end, the sarcasm becomes a bit too harsh to be enjoyable as Twain's love for persons individually begins to be outweighed by his distaste for people in general. Before this poison starts to take effect, though, Twain gently but effectively ridicules organized religion, politics, advertising, personal hygiene, war, and, of course, the Arthurian legend. It helps if you have tried to read (and, like me, failed to finish) Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur, but anyone familiar with chivalrous tales of knights in shining armor is bound to get the joke.
The Reader: Steve Anderson's reading is full of enthusiasm. He lends just the right amount of sarcasm to his telling and makes Hank's story come alive with wit. Anderson doesn't "do voices" for other characters very often, which since the story is told as a 1st person narrative, is just fine. The only small fault is with the recording itself. There's a bit of background hum and the louder tones are cut off, giving the voice a tinny character at times.