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Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 (Mark Twain Papers) [Hardcover]

Mark Twain , Harriet Elinor Smith , Benjamin Griffin , Victor Fischer , Michael B. Frank , Sharon K. Goetz , Leslie Diane Myrick
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 Oct 2010 Mark Twain Papers
'I've struck it!' Mark Twain wrote in a 1904 letter to a friend. 'And I will give it away - to you. You will never know how much enjoyment you have lost until you get to dictating your autobiography.' Thus, after dozens of false starts and hundreds of pages, Twain embarked on his 'Final (and Right) Plan' for telling the story of his life. His innovative notion - to 'talk only about the thing which interests you for the moment' - meant that his thoughts could range freely. The strict instruction that many of these texts remain unpublished for 100 years meant that when they came out, he would be 'dead, and unaware, and indifferent,' and that he was therefore free to speak his 'whole frank mind.' The year 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of Twain's death. In celebration of this important milestone and in honor of the cherished tradition of publishing Mark Twain's works, "UC Press" is proud to offer for the first time Mark Twain's uncensored autobiography in its entirety and exactly as he left it. This major literary event brings to readers, admirers, and scholars the first of three volumes and presents Mark Twain's authentic and unsuppressed voice, brimming with humor, ideas, and opinions, and speaking clearly from the grave as he intended.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 743 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (15 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520267192
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520267190
  • Product Dimensions: 26.1 x 18.5 x 6.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 74,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Promises a no-holds barred perspective on Twain's life, and will be rich with rambunctious, uncompromising opinions." --Herald Scotland

Stored under lock and key since his death 100 years ago, the first volume of Mark Twain's autobiography will be published later this year by the University of California Press. The author had specified a century's wait, so that he might be properly "dead, and unaware, and indifferent". In the meantime, the summer issue of Granta magazine (out next week) will be running an exclusive extract, in which Twain recalls childhood summers on his uncle's farm. The highlight for literary buffs will be the revelation that a middle-aged slave, "Uncle Dan'l", was the inspiration for Jim in Huckleberry Finn. For others, it is likely to be his discourse on the joys of tobacco for seven-year-old boys. "A strapping girl of 15, in the customary sunbonnet and calico dress, asked me if I 'used tobacco' meaning did I chew it. I said, no. It roused her scorn. She reported me to all the crowd and said, 'Here is a boy seven years old who can't chew tobacco.' By the looks and comments which this produced, I realised I was a degraded object; I was cruelly ashamed of myself. I determined to reform. But I only made myself sick; I was not able to learn to chew tobacco. I learned to smoke fairly well, but that did not conciliate anybody, and I remained a poor thing, and characterless." Twain carried on smoking for 67 years, until his death in 1910. --John Crace, The Guardian

Stored under lock and key since his death 100 years ago, the first volume of Mark Twain's autobiography will be published later this year by the University of California Press. The author had specified a century's wait, so that he might be properly "dead, and unaware, and indifferent". In the meantime, the summer issue of Granta magazine (out next week) will be running an exclusive extract, in which Twain recalls childhood summers on his uncle's farm. The highlight for literary buffs will be the revelation that a middle-aged slave, "Uncle Dan'l", was the inspiration for Jim in Huckleberry Finn. For others, it is likely to be his discourse on the joys of tobacco for seven-year-old boys. "A strapping girl of 15, in the customary sunbonnet and calico dress, asked me if I 'used tobacco' meaning did I chew it. I said, no. It roused her scorn. She reported me to all the crowd and said, 'Here is a boy seven years old who can't chew tobacco.' By the looks and comments which this produced, I realised I was a degraded object; I was cruelly ashamed of myself. I determined to reform. But I only made myself sick; I was not able to learn to chew tobacco. I learned to smoke fairly well, but that did not conciliate anybody, and I remained a poor thing, and characterless." Twain carried on smoking for 67 years, until his death in 1910. --John Crace, The Guardian

About the Author

Harriet Elinor Smith is an editor at the Mark Twain Project, which is housed within the Mark Twain Papers, the world's largest archive of primary materials by this major American writer. Under the direction of General Editor Robert H. Hirst, the Project's editors are producing the first comprehensive edition of all of Mark Twain's writings.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
82 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monumental and ambitious work 8 Nov 2010
By Big Jim TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This is an exhaustive and in a good way, exhausting read. Indeed if the book has a fault is it's sheer scope. There is so much in here that you have to put it down regularly to get your breath back! Luckily the format lends itself to such "dipping" as it is not laid out in traditional, chronological chapters, but in the order the separate episodes were dictated and recorded. This means that you can re-join the story almost like you are picking up an ongoing conversation with the great man himself.

In this first volume there are also various snippets and notes that Twain had intended for publication as well as loads of references and expanded footnotes for the true enthusiast. But the bulk of the volume is the series of dictations that were recorded from 1906 which allows Twain to digress and return to various narratives, introduce different characters (including many famous ones like RL Stevenson) and tell their stories as well as the often hilarious, poignant and exciting tales involving the author himself. These are annotated in the margin either by year of the event or name of the protagonist which seems a neat way of dealing with what might have become an overly rambling and hard to follow account. I don't know how much of the praise should go to the author or the editors for ensuring that the narrative is easy to follow but they succeed admirably. For me the unique aspect of this sort of autobiography is that you can almost literally hear Twain's voice which gives an added piquancy to the story and makes it easy to digest.

This is a physically imposing volume so you won't be reading this on the train, but it is a beautiful piece of work, an amazing price and there are two further volumes promised!
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wait a bit longer 3 Dec 2010
By MOM
Format:Hardcover
I have been waiting for this book to be published for quite a while and I was amongst the first to order it. Mark Twain has left us a wonderful legacy with his autobiography but you may want to give this volume a miss. This is an academic book filled with words by people who are not Mark Twain but who are in the Mark Twain business. The book is so weighed down by academic comment that the enjoyment is somewhat spoiled; it is also quite massive and difficult to handle. There will, no doubt, be a trade edition of this book next year which will be easier to handle and more enjoyable to read. I would recommend waiting for that. We have already waited 100 years, what's another year?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Mr. Ian A. Macfarlane TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I'm going to agree with 'MOM'. About 240 pages of this 700-page plus book are by Mark Twain - the first part of his full autobiography, appearing now 100 years after his death. You can get bits of that in other, earlier extract-based volumes, but not all of it. It's a ramble ; it wanders apparently just as the mood takes him ; you are often not quite sure whether he is speaking the plain truth, an embroidered version of the truth, or something that is largely fantastical. All of which is to say that it is genuine Mark Twain, and completely individual. So far, so good. Many pages are very funny, some very poignant (when he touches on the death of his daughter Susy and his memories of her), all of it is more than worth reading. However, in addition to this unquestionably valuable material, there is a huge amount of baggage - which would not be baggage to the scholar, but is to the general reader. The result is a book which is extremely heavy and unwieldy, whose print is small and, when there are quotations, even smaller. So the three-star rating is a composite, and it certainly should not be taken to reflect on Mark Twain's own pages, but there is a great deal more to this book than that.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heaven - but Hell to read in the bath! 7 Jun 2011
By Tone747
Format:Hardcover
(I am talking about "Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 (Mark Twain Papers)" in hardback, and no other edition).
After the preliminaries from the editors, the first paper introduced is a description of his father and family circumstances, and moves on to discuss his involvement with General Grant and how he became his publisher. There is also plenty about his stays abroad -posting a letter in London or secretly admiring irrepressibility of the Austrian maid nicknamed 'Wuthering Heights' 'cause he name was unpronounceable.
Mark Twain has an honesty that makes it clear why he would want to wait 100 years before publication of some material. It also shows an ambiguity of character we all face (namely generosity and thrift can co-exist in the same person). He also shows why he can still be considered one of the most witty, charming and satirical writers of any age. I imagine he is at this very moment, up in the correct corner of Heaven (where 100 years down her is only a few days up there), having just received his wings, dealing with the aftermath of a mid-air collision with the Archbishop of Canterbury and an Irishman.
Please note that this is no stuffy tome (you don't have to read the editors' remarks - which are not so bad anyway), it's lively and very refreshing.
The only drawback? Be warned, this is a laaaarrrge book and I would advise against reading it in the bath lest the corners get wet.
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