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Autobiography of Mark Twain: Volume 1, Reader’s Edition [Paperback]

Mark Twain , Harriet E. Smith , Robert Hirst

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Book Description

March 26 2012 9780520272255 978-0520272255 Reprint
The year 2010 marked the 100th anniversary of Mark Twain’s death. In celebration of this important milestone and in honor of the cherished tradition of publishing Mark Twain’s works, UC Press published Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1, the first of a projected three-volume edition of the complete, uncensored autobiography. The book became an immediate bestseller and was hailed as the capstone of the life’s work of America’s favorite author.

This Reader’s Edition, a portable paperback in larger type, republishes the text of the hardcover Autobiography in a form that is convenient for the general reader, without the editorial explanatory notes. It includes a brief introduction describing the evolution of Mark Twain’s ideas about writing his autobiography, as well as a chronology of his life, brief family biographies, and an excerpt from the forthcoming Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2—a controversial but characteristically humorous attack on Christian doctrine.

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Autobiography of Mark Twain: Volume 1, Reader’s Edition + Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2: The Complete and Authoritative Edition
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Review

“Smith and her companion editors have accomplished a herculean task. . . . A more accurately arranged collection than any earlier edition.”
(American Literary Realism 2012-08-17)

“Sometimes the autobiography seems Twain’s letter to posterity. At other times, reading it feels like eavesdropping on a conversation he is having with himself. . . . This first installment of Twain’s autobiography brings us closer to all of him than we have ever come before.”
(New York Review Of Books 2011-02-24)

“This is a book to treasure for all friends of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.”
(Acadiana Lifestyle Magazine 2010-12-01)

“Now, common sense, at last. We have, emblazoned big as life on the paperback cover underneath Twain’s photo . . . the words ‘Reader’s Edition.’ The very idea of it is a winner. . . . It is less academically punctilious but indeed more reader-friendly.”
(Buffalo News 2012-04-29)

“Dip into the first enormous volume of Twain’s autobiography that he had decreed should not appear until 100 years after his death. And Twain will begin to seem strange again, alluring and still astonishing, but less sure-footed, and at times both puzzled and puzzling in ways that still resonate with us, though not the ways we might expect.”
(New York Times 2010-09-17)

“This is a book for dipping, not plunging. Read, as Twain might put it, until interest pales, and then jump. It feels like a form of time travel.”
(New York Times/The Opinion Pages 2010-11-27)

“Twain generously provides the 21st century aficionado a marvelous read. His crystalline humor and expansive range are a continuous source of delight and awe. . . . [He] has given us ‘an astonishment’ in his autobiography with his final, beautifully unorganized genius and intemperate thoughts. Pull up a chair and revel.”
(Los Angeles Times Book Review 2010-11-14)

“Mission accomplished, Mr. Clemens.”
(Roger Boylan Boston Review 2010-11-01)

“The bestseller chart is awash with memoirs -- but none offer the extreme reading of the Autobiography of Mark Twain.”
(Debra Craine The Times 2010-10-18)

“His '’whole frank mind,’ sharp and funny, is seared onto every page. A”
(Entertainment Weekly 2010-11-10)

“Brimming with Twain’s humor, ideas and opinions, this is a book for anyone interested in the writer’s work and life.”
(Curledup.com 2011-01-12)

“With the uncensored Twain finally here, we're the furthest thing from indifferent.”
(Time Magazine 2010-09-20)

“Promises a no-holds barred perspective on Twain’s life, and will be rich with rambunctious, uncompromising opinions.”
(Herald Scotland 2010-07-19)

“Twain’s writing here is electric, alternately moving and hilarious. He couldn’t write a ho-hum sentence.”
(Library Journal 2010-09-15)

“Twain would approve!”
(Bookideas.com 2010-12-29)

“A major achevement.”
(Choice 2011-04-20)

“Twain's autobiography, finally available after a century, is a garrulous outpouring—and every word beguiles.”
(Wall Street Journal 2010-11-13)

“Twian’s ‘Final Plan’ has been released in a truly spectacular first volume of his posthumous ‘Autobiography’.”
(Vitali Vitaliev Engineering & Technology 2011-02-01)

“Pure Twain at his typically discursive, rambling, and droll. . . . The bard of Hannibal still has much to say.”
(American Heritage 2010-09-01)

New
(New York Times Book Review 2012-04-27)

From the Inside Flap

"Mark Twain dictated much of this book—now it is a book at last—from a big rumpled bed. Reading it is a bit like climbing in there with him."—Roy Blount, Jr.

"To say that the editors have done an extremely good job is a little like saying the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel does a good job of keeping the rain off the Pope's head. It is true but it doesn't give even a whiff of the grandeur of the thing."—Robert D. Richardson, author of Emerson: The Mind on Fire

"Mark Twain, always so blithely ahead of his time, has just outdone himself: he's brought us an Autobiography from beyond the grave: a hundred-year-old relic that yet manages to accomplish something new. It anticipates the Cubism just taking form in Samuel Clemens's last years, by exploding the confines of orderliness, sequence, the dutiful march of this-then-that. In so doing, it gives us not simply Mark Twain's life—that is the prosaic work of biographers—but the ways in which he thought of his life: in all the fragmented recollection, distraction, creation, revision and dreaming that make up the true, divinely jumbled devices we all use to recapture experience and feeling. If this prodigious and prodigal pastiche were a machine, it would be the Paige typesetter—except that it works."—Ron Powers, author of Mark Twain: A Life


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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Reader-Friendly Autobiography of Mark Twain April 15 2012
By C. Hutton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Unlike the original and oversize hardback edition of 2010, this paperback edition is being marketed as the "Reader's Edition." The staff of the University of California Press clearly underestimated the public interest in their academic approach to the publication of Mark Twain's musings on his past life. The first edition was quickly sold out and became an unexpected best-seller during the holiday season of 2010. Out of the 700 pages of text, over half of them dealt with the complexities of establishing the correct text, the many prior false starts by Mark Twain to write his autobiography plus exhaustive notes and appendixes. The hardback edition was aimed at the scholar of Mark Twain literature and to be the "Definitive Autobiography" by printing every reminiscence of his from 1906-1909 in the order it came into creation.

The major difference between these two editions is the elimination of most of the scholarly material -- for instance, the 200+ page introduction has been condensed to 20 pages and the index is gone. What is left for this 2012 paperback edition is the actual autobiographical material that Mark Twain created. The other change has been the increase in font size as the hardback readers complained that the print was too small. The reader can decide how much academic background they desire for the autobiography, which is still a rambling discourse on his life without any chronological sequence.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vivid glimpse and fresh perspective of an American literary icon who will long be remembered. June 12 2012
By Norm Goldman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Editor: Harriet Elinor Smith
Publisher: University of California Press
ISBN: 978-0-520-27225-5

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was born in Florida Missouri on the 30th of November, 1835, which he describes in his autobiography as "an almost invisible village." He grew up in Hannibal, Missouri which would provide him for the settings for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.

For over thirty-five years between 1870 and 1905 this brilliant American author and humorist had repeatedly endeavored to write his autobiography, however, as we learn from Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1, nothing much came of these attempts.

It was in 1906 when he really began in earnest to write his autobiography with his daily dictations to his stenographer, Josephine S. Hobby, and he decided that these "Autobiographical Dictations" would form the bulk of what he would call Autobiography of Mark Twain. He believed that he had found the right way to dictate an autobiography and as he states: "to start it at no particular time of your life; wander at your free will all over your life; talk only about the thing which interests you for the moment; drop it the moment its interest threatens to pale, and turn your talk upon the new and more interesting thing that has intruded itself into your mind meantime." Twain believed that biographies are "but the clothes and buttons of man-the biography of the man himself cannot be written." There was to be, however, one important stipulation and that was that the autobiography was not to be published in its entirety until a lapse of one hundred years after his death. Twain died on the twenty-first of April, 1910 and he completed his last chapter of his autobiography in December of 1909.

2010 marked the one hundredth anniversary of Twain's death and to celebrate this important milestone the University of California Press published Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1, which is to be the first of a projected three-volume edition of the complete, uncensored autobiography. As mentioned in the introduction, it is the goal of the present edition to publish the complete text as nearly as possible in the way Mark Twain intended it to be published after his death.

When I picked up a copy of this captivating tome, I felt as if I was having a private conversation with one of America's most brilliant authors and humorists, whom William Faulkner described as "the father of American Literature," as he spouted out pearls of wisdom and tendered his unabashed opinions concerning religion, politics, the human race and many other topics. Moreover, it also provided me with a window into what Twain and his times said about each other, in a way that can even speak to us today, even though much is quite controversial. As Twain asserts: "we suppress an unpopular opinion because we cannot afford the bitter cost of putting it forth. None of us likes to be hated, none of us likes to be shunned," which was probably one of the reasons why he wanted to defer the publication of his autobiography. To exemplify, Twain believed that in the "matter of slavish imitation, man is the monkey's superior all the time. The average man is destitute of independence of opinion. He is not interested in contriving an opinion of his own, by study and reflection, but is only anxious to find out what his neighbor's opinion is and slavishly adopt it." Strong words, but very true. Another is Twain's opinion of the trade of critic in literature, music, and drama, which he considered to be the most degraded of all trades, that has no real value-"certainly no large value."

The autobiography also provides the reader with fascinating information narrated by Twain as to how he entered the lecture circuit, his experiences as a public speaker and journalist, the society he mingled with, his famous friends including presidents, artists, industrialists, European royalty, travels, unsuccessful business ventures, and his hefty earnings. His reflections and ruminations are presented largely without apology yet, when you read and savor them, you can't help nodding your head and agreeing with them, as they are frank and honest-something that is lacking today in the media. In addition, Twain devotes considerable ink to his daughter Susy's writings, her diary and her favorable opinions concerning her father. Unfortunately, Susy died when she was only twenty-four.

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 was a pleasure to read, insightful, thought-provoking and wonderfully delicious. There was not an opinion or fulmination that was not packed with admirable concision and careful attention to detail, as well as irreverent humor and biting social satire. Thanks to the publishers with affording us with the opportunity to experience a vivid glimpse and fresh perspective of an American literary icon who will long be remembered.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book! May 15 2012
By Dad of Divas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The book was an amazing tribute to a remarkable man. You get to know so much about the man and the myth and though I have read many of his stories, I really did not know much about him as a man. but this book opened my eyes to the world that he lived in and the world that he created around him. I loved the anecdotes spread throughout the entire book which provides any lover of history with great information and resources. As you read you also are given an amazing insight into the many characters that surrounded the life of Mark Twain. Thus, you get the opportunity to really get to know this amazing man. While the book is thick and takes some time to get through, the book is definitely worth the time and effort! You will love this book!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I Blame The Editors May 13 2014
By Zandar Beaumont - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
For several years this massive, unwieldy (impossible to physically read due to size) tome has been sitting in my house, sincerely bothering me. What deeply irks me (and what I haven't seen noted elsewhere) is that the Editors, in their academic heads-up-their-ass wisdom, in fact decided to completely DISREGARD Mark Twain's stated wishes. As they prove without dispute, he spent a lot of time pondering how to write his autobiography. He made a lot of false starts. He settled on something which he then instructed was not to be released until 100 years after his death. So what do these brilliant editors do? They compile EVERYTHING, including all the false starts, into a series of nearly unmanageable volumes, literally BURYING Twain's actual, final autobiography somewhere in the middle of all of it. Volume 1 takes about 200 pages just to get to the start of the actual book Twain wanted to be released. DOES THAT MAKE ANY SENSE? Is that any way to treat this man's work? Aside from the disappointing and clumsy organization with its intrusive academic notations and tedious scholarship, this book quite simply disgracefully ignores the subject's own stated wishes, dishonoring the thoughts and intentions of the very man who it claims to celebrate. Surely VOL. 1 should have been the Autobiography more or less exactly as Twain intended it to be published... not as people a century later THINK he should have published it!

I believe that if Mr. Clemens returned he would be angry, annoyed and contemptuous of Editor Smith and the other self-important scholars who created this literary abomination, a book so poorly designed that it manages to make the final words of a great and entertaining spirit tedious and obscure.

Shame on them all, best-seller status and academic kudos be damned!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mark Twain's Personal Story is Finally Available! Jan. 20 2013
By C. P. Gilmore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've been a fan of Mark Twain's ever since I was a young boy and have read most (not all) of his books. One has to be a real fan to get through his books, though, because his writing style is definitely dated...like, a hundred fifty years dated...but he was the first author to write in the everyday language of the masses, and for that you have to love the guy. This is the paperback "Reader's Edition" of his autobiography. The hardback edition is the academic version, meant only for critical study by those who do such things in universities and literary societies, with over 200 pages of extra notes and material that actually does nothing for the casual reader other than to frustrate him to the point of "When does this autobiography begin?"

The same can be said for this "Reader's Edition", although the extra pages are reduced to about 20 pages of his "false starts" when he first decided to write his personal story. I actually found his "false starts" to be more entertaining than the heart of his "approved" autobiography, because in those his bio was more traditional; he spoke of his childhood and of those around him who influenced many of the characters in his novels. His actual bio begins in his villa in Tuscany, where he and his family retired for a year or so while his wife was ill, but there is little to his life story to be found here, other than his prejudices against the "Countess" who rented this villa to him and how much he hated her.

I am more than 1/3 through the book, now, and am enjoying it as I thought I would, but really, Mr. Clemens, don't you think an autobiography should be more about your life's story rather than bits and pieces about people you've met here and there and less than interesting quips about personages about whom none of us really give a whip 100 years after their deaths? I have yet to come to the really juicy parts, those in which he lets the coveted institutions of religion and politics have it, the real reason he admonished his trustees not to let his autobiography be printed until 100 years after his death in the first place, but until then, I will just have to plod through his meanderings hoping for the best.

Don't get me wrong...this is a wonderful tome from America's greatest author and lecturer, but again, he writes in a flowery style reminiscent of the Civil War years, which is hard for modern readers to appreciate. Many will put this book down in frustration of waiting for the "car chase" at the end, but to those who do, you will have missed the story of an American classic.

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