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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mark Twain Autobiography


The new Autobiography of Mark Twain is a whopper. It weighs a ton. All 800 pages..... but in any case the subject was known for telling whoppers. And a wonderfully skewed and satirical sense of humor.
As you may know, Twain wanted his writings on his own life to be unpublished for a hundred years after his death. The team of "friends," that published this monster, took numerous pages to explain Twains complicated reasoning for his 'don't publish till death wish." Then, on top of all this, Twain did not believe a chronological life story was the way to go. Another fifty pages by the editors, were required to unravel this convoluted reasoning . Then there were the several authors whose previous biographies of Twain violated his wishes on this subject and using his voluminous notes and discarded autobiographical attempts published anyway. The editors of the current biography required much tut tuting and footnotes to show why the previous authors had screwed up. I figure about half the book is comprised of this kind of editorial gobbledegook. All of that might possibly appeal to those in depth literary experts and analysts who make a career of deciphering hieroglyphics and the like. Not for me though. I ended up skipping thru most of it.
Now as to what Twain actually wrote himself, it's as you might expect wonderfully interesting. I had to laugh out loud (lol) many times and then read it to my spouse who kept on giving me that "so what’s so funny look." There is much here in the way of little anecdotes and short sketches of people, famous and not so famous, that the author knew. Is the book worth purchasing? For the average reader, like myself, probably not. The parts that I read and really enjoyed I got from the book which was obtained at the public library. I reasons why I skipped about half of this book , I’ve already explained. I think Mark Twain might have chuckled at that.....

8 comments:

Rae said...

Hi Mr. T. Glad to see you back from the mountains of Colorado. I have wondered if this book would be worth a read. Twain is such an interesting character. I think this will go on my library list.

Arkansas Patti said...

Thank you, you saved me buying the book. I was wanting to since I am a Twain fan. However, I will try the library version. Thanks.

PC said...

I've had my doubts about whether Twain's autobiography was worth buying, based on some of the reviews. Yours has convinced me that, while it may be worthwhile checking it out of the library, buying it is not the way to go.

Farmchick said...

I also read a review about a good portion of the book being non-Twain writings. Glad to read your review, as I have considered purchasing it, but likely won't.

Veronica Wald said...

"It weighs a ton. All 800 pages..." and this is just volume I!
Maybe we need a more user-friendly version, without the commentary and scholarly (?) remarks?

Joe said...

It's funny, but a lot of it is just downright depressing.

Janie said...

I doubt Mark Twain would have approved of the editorializing. I want to read it, but I'll probably check it out of the library instead of purchasing it, after reading your review.

Retired English Teacher said...

Thanks for showing me where your review was.

I am currently reading the book on my Kindle. I debated on downloading it. I'm glad I only spent the cost of a download. I too am skipping much of the early part of the book. My fellow former colleague English teacher said he also skipped much in order to get to Twain's actual writing.