Autobiography of Mark Twain: v. 1: Reader's Edition, Just My Words (Mark Twain Papers) Paperback – 7 Feb 2012
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"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"
"Smith and her companion editors have accomplished a herculean task. . . . A more accurately arranged collection than any earlier edition."--"American Literary Realism"
"Mission accomplished, Mr. Clemens."--Roger Boylan"Boston Review" (11/01/2010)
"The bestseller chart is awash with memoirs -- but none offer the extreme reading of the Autobiography of Mark Twain."--Debra Craine"The Times" (10/18/2010)
"Twian's 'Final Plan' has been released in a truly spectacular first volume of his posthumous 'Autobiography'."--Vitali Vitaliev"Engineering & Technology" (02/01/2011)
Mission accomplished, Mr. Clemens. --Roger Boylan"Boston Review" (11/01/2010)"
The bestseller chart is awash with memoirs -- but none offer the extreme reading of the Autobiography of Mark Twain. --Debra Craine"The Times" (10/18/2010)"
Twian s Final Plan has been released in a truly spectacular first volume of his posthumous Autobiography . --Vitali Vitaliev"Engineering & Technology" (02/01/2011)"
From the Inside Flap
"Mark Twain dictated much of this booknow it is a book at lastfrom 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 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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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.
Publisher: University of California Press
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.
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.