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Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1: The Complete and Authoritative Edition Hardcover – Nov 15 2010
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From the Inside Flap
"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 lifethat is the prosaic work of biographersbut 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 typesetterexcept that it works."Ron Powers, author of Mark Twain: A Life
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Top Customer Reviews
I haven't had this much fun with a new book since the corrected version of Joyce's Ulysses came out. Let me explain. The only thing better than reading an outstanding work by a great writer is seeing the anatomy of how the work was written. It's fascinating to see the false starts, the problems, their solutions, and the process of mixing it all together to make a wonderful, tasty concoction for readers.
Samuel L. Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) decided he wanted to write a truthful autobiography that would be so accurate in its portrayals that he directed it not be published for 100 years. Despite that admonition, his source material has been scoured to produce earlier versions of "an autobiography." It turns out that what Clemens had in mind was something much more difficult, writing an exhaustive autobiography that allowed him to also candidly share his unusual turn of mind and insert the kind of humor that makes his writing so appealing. As a result of many unsuccessful attempts, he chose to ignore the normal chronological order in favor of dictating segments (and side trips that are not necessarily very related) that appealed to him.
In the process, I came away with a strong feeling that it's hard to put your imprint on an autobiography . . . even if you are a wonderful storyteller and writer. The constraint of telling the truth (no more and no less) is also a daunting one, one that the footnotes to this fascinating volume indicate that Clemens often violated (probably unwittingly in many cases).
Even the "failed" sections make for fascinating reading, including his close association with Ulysses S.Read more ›
Suffers from its lack of structure, and from the fact that much of it is remarkably pedestrian. One of the best parts is the extended introduction, which examines Twain's thought process as he debates how to present his material. His decision to dictate the original material is intriguing, but its also one source of the book's lack of focus. Read his literary works, instead.
There are unexpected riches. He loved his children and studied them like a scientist, but one with a keen sense of humor. One of them, Susie, died at 24, and he immortalized her by publishing a her biography of her father that she wrote at age 13. She was an accomplished writer, with telling insight and a love for him that was equal to his for his whole family. He quotes her over and over, and it contributes to the rich, many-layered texture of the book.
That family might become the most famous, most loved family of all time. They loved one another, and they all had a keen sense of humor, and after reading, or listening to this book for a while, you’ll feel like you’re one of them
There is his close friendship with Ulysses Grant, civil war general and US president, including a fascinating account of how he rescued Grant & his autobiography from an unscrupulous publisher.
There is his keen interest in and love of black people, who he knew as slaves when he was a boy, but admired all his life.
Some people, because of his declared disgust with humanity as a social animal, have said Twain died a bitter man. Well, it’s not bitterness. It’s a well-deserved set of judgements on humanity that he delivers with his characteristic humor and authority.
I used to say that what we need today is a new Voltaire. I used to say Mark Twain was the closest we’ve come to Voltaire. Now that I’ve encountered this book, I see that he was easily Voltaire’s equal. What we need now is a new Mark Twain.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I was spurred to buy this book by reading the Library of America volume containing "Innocents Abroad" and "Roughing It", both autobiographical accounts by Twain. Read morePublished on Aug. 12 2013 by R. F. Whitlock
Mark Twain's autobiography came with a stipulation that it not be published until a hundred years after he died. Read morePublished on June 8 2012 by Mark Nenadov
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