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Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 (Mark Twain Papers) Hardcover – 15 Oct 2010


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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: 17.8 x 6.4 x 25.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 103,536 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

84 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Big Jim TOP 50 REVIEWER on 8 Nov 2010
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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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By MOM on 3 Dec 2010
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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 14 Sep 1998
Format: Paperback
This is technically perhaps not a great autobiography, in that it is rather a scrap book of anecdotes from Twain's life, with a casual tone that serious-minded readers might find less than fulfilling; but the anecdotes that work are brilliant, and I have read the brilliant ones countless times. I have read the parts about Twain's mother over and over, because she is the type person I aspire to be!! I'll give one anecdote about her to explain: There was a fierce, strongly built Corsican in Hannibal chasing his daughter through the streets with a thick rope, threatening to beat her with it. All the strongest men did not interfere as this man chased his daughter. The daughter finally came to Mrs. Clemens' door, and she let the girl in the door. But rather than shut the door, Mrs. Clemens--a frail woman--stood in the door way, blocking the way of the Corsican. The Corsican yelled at her, threatening her with the rope to get out of the way so he could get to his daughter. But Mrs. Clemens stood firm, and then berated the Corsican for chasing his daughter, and shamed his manhood, so that he finally swore with a blasphemous oath that she was the bravest woman he had ever met. He gave the rope to her, left his daughter alone, and he and Mrs. Clemens were friends after that. For, as Twain puts it, "he had found in her a long-wanted need. Someone who was not afraid of him."
I'd truly love typing my favorite bits of this book for you to read here. But Twain certainly tells them better, so I recommend you buy the book instead. You won't regret it. It will make you feel good about being American. And not in any patriotic sense, but in a down-to-earth sense.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By hillbank68 TOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 Nov 2011
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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