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The Autobiography of Mark Twain: Deluxe Modern Classic (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)

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Here is one of the great autobiographies of the English language, exuberant, wonderfully contemporary in spirit, by a man twice as large as life who-he said so himself-had no trouble remembering everything that had ever happened to him and a lot of things besides.


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Here is one of the great autobiographies of the English language, exuberant, wonderfully contemporary in spirit, by a man twice as large as life who-he said so himself-had no trouble remembering everything that had ever happened to him and a lot of things besides.

30 review for The Autobiography of Mark Twain: Deluxe Modern Classic (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Susan Branch

    I started crying from happiness at about page two. When I finished this book, Joe and I got in the car and drove directly to his house in Hartford CT and I cried all the way through that too. He is wonderful, brilliant, genius. Learning about his life from his own pen felt like a gift. From him, I've gleaned tiny informative bits to add to my mental notes on "how to write." I started crying from happiness at about page two. When I finished this book, Joe and I got in the car and drove directly to his house in Hartford CT and I cried all the way through that too. He is wonderful, brilliant, genius. Learning about his life from his own pen felt like a gift. From him, I've gleaned tiny informative bits to add to my mental notes on "how to write."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Virgilio

    “In this Autobiography I shall keep in mind that I am speaking from the grave. I am literally speaking from the grave, because I shall be dead when the book issues from the press”(Twain xxxv). The Autobiography of Mark Twain explores the many aspects and anecdotes of Mark Twain’s life, as well as the many people who influenced Twain and his work immensely. He reveals his personal thoughts of the people around him, and the world around him. He reveals himself as a person who writes what he knows, “In this Autobiography I shall keep in mind that I am speaking from the grave. I am literally speaking from the grave, because I shall be dead when the book issues from the press”(Twain xxxv). The Autobiography of Mark Twain explores the many aspects and anecdotes of Mark Twain’s life, as well as the many people who influenced Twain and his work immensely. He reveals his personal thoughts of the people around him, and the world around him. He reveals himself as a person who writes what he knows, as many of his beloved characters are based off of people he has known. Since the topic of the book is on his own life, it was very rich and full of detail. This is an exhilarating read, and is easily one of the best books I have read. Mr. Twain had led very rich and full life, which increase the quality of the piece itself. He goes from having a very incomplete education to having a honorary degree from Oxford University. He’s narrowly avoided death by duel, and faces hardship in the forms of massive debt. He is surrounded by loving family members and greedy publishers. He meets many famous people, including President Ulysses S. Grant, who asked Twain for his help when writing his autobiography. What struck me about this book was that, at the middle of the book, I started to treat it not as a a boring biography but as an immersive and interesting story. He presents the events of his life with certain flair. For example, when Twain and a fellow author talk about Twain’s private politics: “Some days afterward I met her again for a moment and she gave me the startling information that she had written down everything I said, just as I said it, without any softening and purifying modifications… She begged me to let her publish.. but I said it would damn me before my time and I don’t wish to be useful to the world on such expensive conditions. (467) ” However, the writing is a bit sporadic, as he tends to switch from an event from his early childhood to an event later in life. For example, he jumps from talking about his father’s style of cooking potatoes, to a feast that is being hosted by the Emperor of Germany. Although he is able to make it flow very well most of the time, it can become a hassle rereading notes trying to understand what was going on. Mark Twain’s presentation of his own life is vivid and full. Though his writing was chaotic at times, the Twain flair makes the chaos more exciting, more lively than an ordinary autobiography. Its dynamic presentation, although exciting, can break the pacing of the book. Also, some points of his life by themselves seem mundane. However, in the end, the strengths of The Autobiography of Mark Twain highlights this book as an exciting read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    May Spangler

    Striking: his use of chiasmus (crossing of terms in one sentence). For instance: "When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it" (p. 4). Well, that's high lit and philosophy, all packaged with one powerful sense of humor, plus a touch of teasing. Worse part is that I do feel that way about n Striking: his use of chiasmus (crossing of terms in one sentence). For instance: "When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it" (p. 4). Well, that's high lit and philosophy, all packaged with one powerful sense of humor, plus a touch of teasing. Worse part is that I do feel that way about not remembering right--so he's able to touch me at a very vulnerable spot as well. Another is: "Perhaps no bread in the world is quite so good as Southern corn bread and perhaps no bread in the world is quite so bad as the Northern imitation of it" (p. 5). Wow! I read Tom Sawyer (in French...) as a girl, and I see now why I liked it quite a bit. This is good stuff. I finished this autobiography 2 weeks ago. It was a difficult read, because the format is so chopped up: it takes work to get into a piece, and before you know it, the piece is over and you have to work into a new one. BUT, it was not a finished work, Mark Twain dictated a lot of it toward the end of his life, and it was pieced together after his death. So, lower your expectations if you decide to get intimate with a pretty unusual person. 4 stars because it does not stand as a whole. There are lots of "jewels" in those pieces: stories of his childhood, like the one of the frozen Mississippi (48-49) and the mesmerizer (66-76) which provides life-long munching material (and great topic to discuss with your teenager during a car drive). Loads of intricate thoughts put into striking forms, like: "As a rule, technicalities of a man's vocation and figures and metaphors drawn from it slip out in his talk and reveal his trade; but if this ever happened in Macfarlane's case I was none the wiser, although I was constantly on the watch during half a year for those very betrayals." This is a great thought: to listen to images used by someone to guess who they are. It's funny too, because it did not work in this case, and Mark Twain is the butt of what has become a joke (isn't it so funny to imagine him working so hard for 6 months with no results?). Mark Twain ends his autobiography with the death of his daughter Jean (he asked his editor to do so if he thought it appropriate). He also shares the death of his wife and other daughter Suzy. There is little literary value and no humor in those final pieces, and it leaves you with a heavy heart that pain could strip this man of his spirit. Nice though (and reassuring...) that such a vivacious scoundrel could love his wife and their daughters with such dedication until death!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    This is NOT the Mark Twain Post 100 years Autobiography that everyone is talking about. This book was copyrighted in 1959 by the editor Charles Neider. The 2010 Autobiography of Mark Twain. Vol. 1 is found elsewhere on GRs. Neider's most important book, however, was arguably The Autobiography of Mark Twain (1959), in which he fashioned a chronological structure that was lacking in the original material and included never-before-published passages. Certainly the most widely read version of Mark T This is NOT the Mark Twain Post 100 years Autobiography that everyone is talking about. This book was copyrighted in 1959 by the editor Charles Neider. The 2010 Autobiography of Mark Twain. Vol. 1 is found elsewhere on GRs. Neider's most important book, however, was arguably The Autobiography of Mark Twain (1959), in which he fashioned a chronological structure that was lacking in the original material and included never-before-published passages. Certainly the most widely read version of Mark Twain's autobiographical writings, that book has played a major role in shaping the public image of Mark Twain the man. Source: http://faculty.citadel.edu/leonard/js... This 1959 version is hardly an autobiography in the born-lived-died sense. In fact, it took me about 50 pages before I figured out that I was going to be disappointed if I continued to look for that kind of an autobiography. This book is really a series of short stories told as if a Mark Twain impersonator was standing up in front of you on stage. With Mark Twain it is always hard to figure out when he is telling the truth. His name is even fiction. His speaking style is often as if he is telling a story. Twain tells stories about his years on the lecture circuit traveling the U.S. and the world telling stories. He is known as an amazing storyteller. If this was a book of short stories and that was what I was looking for, I would probably give this book three stars. But I was looking for something a little more like an autobiography. I though that it developed more of a coherent whole feeling toward the end. More like one big connected story rather than a random selection of short stories. I am wondering how the new 2010 autobiography will handle my quest to read something about the life and times of Mark Twain; maybe it will have to be a biography. Please let it not be Wikipedia!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Cook

    When it was good it was very very good but when it was bad it was boring af.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brian Flatt

    Ok, I have decided to mete out the 5 stars sparingly. The rating wouldn't mean much if it was given to just any old book that I happened to like. This book though, is without a doubt, one of those few that actually deserves more than 5 stars and it is therefore one of my favorite books of all time. Why? Well, I think there are some books that you read and you think, upon closing the last page, "Hmmm, that was a pretty good book", but then if asked about it a few days later you might be hard pres Ok, I have decided to mete out the 5 stars sparingly. The rating wouldn't mean much if it was given to just any old book that I happened to like. This book though, is without a doubt, one of those few that actually deserves more than 5 stars and it is therefore one of my favorite books of all time. Why? Well, I think there are some books that you read and you think, upon closing the last page, "Hmmm, that was a pretty good book", but then if asked about it a few days later you might be hard pressed to remember much if anything about it. Other books you read, they affect you, they touch your life, your heart, your soul, and you are changed, a different person afterwards. I have not read too many of those books. When people are asked to name the books that have changed their lives, I'm always amused at those whose lists are long. My list is short and this one is on the short list. I absolutely fell in love with Mark Twain and his autobiography. It is even more interesting when you realize that Mark Twain never actually wrote an autobiography. What he did write were a grab bag assortment of small books and personal anecdotes, with the intention of someone else compiling it after his death into an autobiography. That is why each version will be slightly different. This is not the version that I read, but Amazon did not have a photo of it, so I chose this one. I was just so taken in by the humanity of Mark Twain, his was an American life to be sure, but it was more than that. He was a living human being,much more than just one of America's, the world's, most beloved authors. He was also a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a friend. He was all of those and more. He lived the ups and downs of life. He lived through more than his fair share of tragedy and yet in the end, he was never beaten by life's circumstances. He stayed true to who he was. He stayed forever and inimitably, Mark Twain. He laughed, he cried, he was happy, and he was sad. In the end he was supremely human, not a perfect human being, and his flaws are readily apparent. This was one of the few books that I have read where I actually had tears streaming down my face when I closed the last page. From his early boyhood, to the many tragedies in his life, all the way up to the end when he lost his daughter and his wife, this book was incredibly poignant. You couldn't help loving this man even more and being sad that we have no equivalent of Mark Twain today. He died himself the following year after his daughter Jean died and the world has been the worse off ever since. \

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    I enjoyed this so much. It is a completely unconventional bio, and the introduction is extremely interesting and helpful in understanding the book's structure: it doesn't have one. As Twain remembered things, he wrote them. They were to be published in the order of composition. I like this. It helps it read more like a journal. There were some really tragic accounts. I think saddest of all are the accounts of the deaths of his children - most especially his infant. His daughters seem to be remar I enjoyed this so much. It is a completely unconventional bio, and the introduction is extremely interesting and helpful in understanding the book's structure: it doesn't have one. As Twain remembered things, he wrote them. They were to be published in the order of composition. I like this. It helps it read more like a journal. There were some really tragic accounts. I think saddest of all are the accounts of the deaths of his children - most especially his infant. His daughters seem to be remarkable people - all of them. The accounts of the vast mounts of money he made and lost and his extensive travel make for a fascinating read in and of themselves. Add to that Twain's trademark tongue-in-cheek humor, and it is a whole lot of fun. I would love to go back and read this after becoming intimately familiar with all his work, because he tells about people upon whom many of his characters were based, and I thought that a lot of fun. Kind of like meeting the characters in real life. I wouldn't call this profound necessarily, but it is certainly very enjoyable and there are many nuggets scattered about it. Great stuff!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Marty Mangold

    Twain's Autobiography was dictated and written around 1906, intended for full publication only after 100 years. This is the mid-century edition from 1958 of a portions of that longer work. Restricted by Twain's surviving daughter, and Twain's own instructions, this is not as complete or as long as the subsequent edition, but longer than the editions from the 1920s and 1940s. Neider provides an excellent introduction, then stays out of the way. Favorite quote from Neider's introduction, commentin Twain's Autobiography was dictated and written around 1906, intended for full publication only after 100 years. This is the mid-century edition from 1958 of a portions of that longer work. Restricted by Twain's surviving daughter, and Twain's own instructions, this is not as complete or as long as the subsequent edition, but longer than the editions from the 1920s and 1940s. Neider provides an excellent introduction, then stays out of the way. Favorite quote from Neider's introduction, commenting that the autobiography is maybe too unhinged to really succeed, but the writings it contains are wonderful: "One of the ironies of art is that it is possible to win a war and lose the battles, and that it is more tragic to lose the battles than to lose the war." A favorite Twain quote from this work: " when I was younger I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not." I think this is valuable as a shorter version of Twain's autobiography as well as a milestone literary moment. The audio version is excellent.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Spiros

    A nice, leisurely stroll through selected incidents in the eventful life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, as told by Mark Twain. He used the freedom of speaking "from beyond the grave" to allow an unrestrained view of people and events that he recalled, but aside from Bret Harte and several of his earliest publishers, he takes a fairly charitable view of the follies and foibles of his fellow men and women. And I'm inclined to think that he might well have invented Captain Haddock, from the Tin Tin c A nice, leisurely stroll through selected incidents in the eventful life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, as told by Mark Twain. He used the freedom of speaking "from beyond the grave" to allow an unrestrained view of people and events that he recalled, but aside from Bret Harte and several of his earliest publishers, he takes a fairly charitable view of the follies and foibles of his fellow men and women. And I'm inclined to think that he might well have invented Captain Haddock, from the Tin Tin comics, in the person of a mate on a riverboat: "He read, and he read great deal, and diligently, but his whole library consisted of of a single book. It was Lyell's Geology, and he had stuck to it until all its grim and rugged scientific terminology was familiar in his mouth, though he hadn't the least idea what the words meant, and didn't care what they meant. All he wanted out of those great words was the energy they stirred up in his roustabouts. In times of extreme emergency he would let fly a volcanic irruption of the old regular orthodox profanity mixed up and seasoned all through with imposing geological terms, then formally charge his roustabouts with being Old Silurian Invertebrates out of the Incandescent Anisodactylous Post-Pliocene Period, and damn the whole gang in a body to perdition"

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    I ought to have read through this much faster and less thoroughly since I was looking specifically for musical references while researching a Twain-themed library music program, but I couldn't help but read through most of it, especially towards the beginning. Yes, Twain constantly rambles into miscellaneous musings but those musings are often pure gold, skillfully rendered with often gut-splittingly hilarity. He was an international celebrity at this point who didn't have to write anything exc I ought to have read through this much faster and less thoroughly since I was looking specifically for musical references while researching a Twain-themed library music program, but I couldn't help but read through most of it, especially towards the beginning. Yes, Twain constantly rambles into miscellaneous musings but those musings are often pure gold, skillfully rendered with often gut-splittingly hilarity. He was an international celebrity at this point who didn't have to write anything except exactly what he wanted to and what seems to have fascinated him most were individuals from his past, both the obscure (such as citizens of Hannibal) and the great (such as Ulysees S. Grant, who Twain admired and Bret Hart, who he despised). The descriptions of his boyhood held the most appeal for me and he waxes incredibly lyrical when describing scenes and people from this epoch of his life.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Booth

    I’ve read this book twice. Part of it my friend and I read to one another when we were traveling in France and had to share a bed. We laughed so hard that people wondered what we were up to. Samuel Clemenz (so?) wrote about his life and adventures and how he became Mark Twain which is a pen name taken from his river piloting days. While an extremely funny book in parts, Twain’s life is peppered by tragedy such as the loss of his brother and some of his children, but it is a wonderful read that y I’ve read this book twice. Part of it my friend and I read to one another when we were traveling in France and had to share a bed. We laughed so hard that people wondered what we were up to. Samuel Clemenz (so?) wrote about his life and adventures and how he became Mark Twain which is a pen name taken from his river piloting days. While an extremely funny book in parts, Twain’s life is peppered by tragedy such as the loss of his brother and some of his children, but it is a wonderful read that you’ll want to read again.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    Filled with truth and stretchers. I like the stretchers best.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Roof Beam Reader (Adam)

    Painful and wonderful. Read the full review: http://classiclit.about.com/od//fl/Th... Painful and wonderful. Read the full review: http://classiclit.about.com/od//fl/Th...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cathy Wacksman

    Mark Twain is an exceptional writer and this autobiography is worth reading. He expounded a bit much on some of the people he describes, thus making it more of a story than a strict autobiography. The loss of his children and wife were sad to learn.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Karith Amel

    I defy anyone to read this book and not to love this man. He is witty beyond measure, but it is a gentle humor in the end. The humor of a man who lived life sincerely and felt things deeply. A man of deep wisdom and deeper compassion. It is a self-deprecating humor (for his wisdom is the wisdom of Socrates -- the kind that recognizes its own limitations, its own folly). It is the humor of a man who loved life well, and saw in it, always, something of majesty and mystery and delight. I don't know I defy anyone to read this book and not to love this man. He is witty beyond measure, but it is a gentle humor in the end. The humor of a man who lived life sincerely and felt things deeply. A man of deep wisdom and deeper compassion. It is a self-deprecating humor (for his wisdom is the wisdom of Socrates -- the kind that recognizes its own limitations, its own folly). It is the humor of a man who loved life well, and saw in it, always, something of majesty and mystery and delight. I don't know that I would have wanted to read this book, rather than having listened to it, for it is true that there is little of organization or continuity. But what matters that, when you are having a conversation (rambling, disjointed, marvelous), with such a man? "Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him." -Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

  16. 5 out of 5

    John Wiswell

    Why read anyone else on Mark Twain when you can read his own words? Twain was brutally honest, devoting entire chapters to times of personal loss and failure. He covers one particular night when he bombed at a lecture, showing no particular ego. In another he covers the night his brother died with savage emotional honesty. He explains as many aspects of his own development as he can think of, from growing cold in learning the ways of literature, to growing up on the Mississippi, to his spiritual Why read anyone else on Mark Twain when you can read his own words? Twain was brutally honest, devoting entire chapters to times of personal loss and failure. He covers one particular night when he bombed at a lecture, showing no particular ego. In another he covers the night his brother died with savage emotional honesty. He explains as many aspects of his own development as he can think of, from growing cold in learning the ways of literature, to growing up on the Mississippi, to his spiritual beliefs, to his extremely critical political beliefs. Most of it is witheringly funny and all of it is worthwhile and insightful, casting out on all possible topics, even ones he wasn't comfortable publishing about in his own day. That's why this book contains chapters only released after his death - some decades after. The best bit is that there are still things he wasn't ready to share, not until a hundred years had gone by. By this manner he gets the last laugh, but by this book you'll know what he's laughing about.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Mark Twain on "the Thing Called an Authors' Reading" "I think that [Thursday afternoon at Vassar] was the first exploitation of a new and devilish invention—the thing called an Authors’ Reading. This witch’s Sabbath took place in a theatre, and began at two in the afternoon. There were nine readers on the list, and I believe I was the only one who was qualified by experience to go at the matter in a sane way. I knew, by my old acquaintanceship with the multiplication table, that nine times ten a Mark Twain on "the Thing Called an Authors' Reading" "I think that [Thursday afternoon at Vassar] was the first exploitation of a new and devilish invention—the thing called an Authors’ Reading. This witch’s Sabbath took place in a theatre, and began at two in the afternoon. There were nine readers on the list, and I believe I was the only one who was qualified by experience to go at the matter in a sane way. I knew, by my old acquaintanceship with the multiplication table, that nine times ten are ninety, and that consequently the average of time allowed to each of these readers should be restricted to ten minutes. There would be an introducer, and he wouldn’t understand his business—this disastrous fact could be counted upon as a certainty. The introducer would be ignorant, windy, eloquent, and willing to hear himself talk. With nine introductions to make, added to his own opening speech—well, I could not go on with these harrowing calculations; I foresaw that there was trouble on hand." — Mark Twain, The Autobiography, Volume 1

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lavinia

    Most of it is funny. And it’s frustrating when, compared to Twain, I’m leading an incredibly dull life. Everything that is interesting, funny, outrageous, supernatural & all seems to happen to him. And oh, the envy on his wittiness! In some parts, it’s touchy. Not only the episodes about his mother and brother (characters in his books – Sid and Aunt Polly, for those who remember), but especially the memories about his wife and daughters. Susy’s biography, written when she was about 14 (have no id Most of it is funny. And it’s frustrating when, compared to Twain, I’m leading an incredibly dull life. Everything that is interesting, funny, outrageous, supernatural & all seems to happen to him. And oh, the envy on his wittiness! In some parts, it’s touchy. Not only the episodes about his mother and brother (characters in his books – Sid and Aunt Polly, for those who remember), but especially the memories about his wife and daughters. Susy’s biography, written when she was about 14 (have no idea if it ever got to be published) is at the same time, funny, objective and delicate. In some smaller parts it’s boring – consider the episodes about his troubles with business partners, copyrights a.s.o. But then again, family comes into sight, with focus on his wife, Olivia, an extremely determined woman, who always found a way to get out of financial problems.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tortla

    I read a selection of chapters actually published (in periodical form) during his life, which was quite heavy on the excerpts from his daughter's biography of him. A conceit that made for this humorist's story, full of satirical and joking anecdotes as it was, surprisingly heartfelt and full of little meditations on mortality (not just his daughter's death at twenty-four, but quite a few other references to friends lost). While still teeming with Twain's trademark wit, of course. It was sweet. On I read a selection of chapters actually published (in periodical form) during his life, which was quite heavy on the excerpts from his daughter's biography of him. A conceit that made for this humorist's story, full of satirical and joking anecdotes as it was, surprisingly heartfelt and full of little meditations on mortality (not just his daughter's death at twenty-four, but quite a few other references to friends lost). While still teeming with Twain's trademark wit, of course. It was sweet. One star off for not rising above prejudices of the time (or at least implicitly accepting racial and gender status quos). And for the unabashed egotism--not of the giant autobiography itself, though I'd never have the gall to write such a vast, unedited thing, but of the overbearing and self-important character he admits to in his descriptions of himself.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    Brilliantly and hilariously mean, for the most part. A rather disconnected collection of memories, anecdotes, and rants, set aside to be published posthumously. Twain spends several chapters each excoriating a former business partner of his and the writer Bret Hart. Of the widow of a poet friend, he says, "A strange and vanity-devoured, detestable woman! I do not believe I could ever learn to like her except on a raft at sea with no other provisions in sight." Most enjoyable. He also talks about Brilliantly and hilariously mean, for the most part. A rather disconnected collection of memories, anecdotes, and rants, set aside to be published posthumously. Twain spends several chapters each excoriating a former business partner of his and the writer Bret Hart. Of the widow of a poet friend, he says, "A strange and vanity-devoured, detestable woman! I do not believe I could ever learn to like her except on a raft at sea with no other provisions in sight." Most enjoyable. He also talks about his religious skepticism and other subjects that he did not feel free to publish during his life. Nicely cynical and yet also sometimes quite moving on the subject of his family and good friends and their loss.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christian

    An extraordinary life and book. This book was dictated in the final years of his life, and I felt like I was sitting in front of Mark Twain and hearing him tell me his story as a friend would. I laughed and got choked up multiple times as I read about his triumphs, misadventures, and losses. It was very interesting to see how many famous stories of his were directly taken from his own life or the lives of those he knew. The structure is unlike any other autobiography I've read, as it follows a g An extraordinary life and book. This book was dictated in the final years of his life, and I felt like I was sitting in front of Mark Twain and hearing him tell me his story as a friend would. I laughed and got choked up multiple times as I read about his triumphs, misadventures, and losses. It was very interesting to see how many famous stories of his were directly taken from his own life or the lives of those he knew. The structure is unlike any other autobiography I've read, as it follows a generally chronological timeline, but deviates from this course at will and occasionally breaks up the narrative with excerpts from letters and diaries. A fascinating book for any fan of Twain or American history.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    I read a biography of Mr. Twain because I was curious about the man. In it I learned that he published the "Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant", which I then read. And, just to see how he himself wrote it, I then read this, his autobiography. Are all the facts there? Are facts shoved around and bent for his nefarious purposes? Who cares! This is another great read from one of America's best writers of any century. A master of imagery and tale-telling, Clemens makes his life a pleasant read for I read a biography of Mr. Twain because I was curious about the man. In it I learned that he published the "Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant", which I then read. And, just to see how he himself wrote it, I then read this, his autobiography. Are all the facts there? Are facts shoved around and bent for his nefarious purposes? Who cares! This is another great read from one of America's best writers of any century. A master of imagery and tale-telling, Clemens makes his life a pleasant read for all.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Julie Mendel

    I found this book to be fascinating. There are personal philosophies, political aspects and well thought out plans incorporated in every page. Being one who journals, I was intrigued by the notes Twain left behind, things like "publish all of this but not until I am dead." the thought of not publishing his biography until he had been dead for a hundred years was genius, no worries about offending friends and acquaintances because they would also be gone as would likely be there children and pote I found this book to be fascinating. There are personal philosophies, political aspects and well thought out plans incorporated in every page. Being one who journals, I was intrigued by the notes Twain left behind, things like "publish all of this but not until I am dead." the thought of not publishing his biography until he had been dead for a hundred years was genius, no worries about offending friends and acquaintances because they would also be gone as would likely be there children and potentially grandchildren. It was an interesting glimpse into into the mind of a great writer.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    After reading this autobiography I have gained new insights into the genius of Clemens. It has given me a better perspective and understanding of his work. If you like his stuff, this will increase your appreciation for it. If you are curious about why people make such a big deal about Twain, this will help you answer that question too.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    This compilation is very well done. I would love to have sat and had a cup of tea with this man. It is my privledge to be able to visit his only remaining original CT home (The Redding one is rebuilt after a fire destroyed its predecessor). A brilliant tragic life. Read it when you can.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dirk

    I had to stop reading this one half way through. I got the feeling this was Mark Twain's last joke on the world. I had to stop reading this one half way through. I got the feeling this was Mark Twain's last joke on the world.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Toward the end of his life, in the first decade of the 20th century, Samuel Clemens began to write material for "Mark Twain's autobiography," which -- because of the many frank, and not always flattering, portraits of many people still alive -- he intended to have published after his death. Shortly, however, he decided that dictating to a stenographer was an easier way of having his voluminous thoughts recorded. When he died in 1910, only four months after the death of his second daughter Jean ( Toward the end of his life, in the first decade of the 20th century, Samuel Clemens began to write material for "Mark Twain's autobiography," which -- because of the many frank, and not always flattering, portraits of many people still alive -- he intended to have published after his death. Shortly, however, he decided that dictating to a stenographer was an easier way of having his voluminous thoughts recorded. When he died in 1910, only four months after the death of his second daughter Jean (his first daughter, Suzy, to whom he was closest, had died in the mid-90s and his beloved wife Clara in 1904), he had not managed to organize the thousands of pages resulting from his dictation. In the intervening years, several different compilations of that material have appeared under various editors, all doing their best to render his material faithfully but also doing their best to exclude that which might otherwise needlessly offend or, for that matter, sully the image that most Americans retained of him as, above all, a beloved man who made them laugh. But Clemens did not do as much "laughing" in his final years, mostly, I think, because of the blows that the loss of Suzy and his wife caused him: while Suzy's death was sudden and unexpected, Clara's was one of a two-year decline in which her doctors forbade him more than a brief contact each day. But Clemens had also lived through some of the most trying times of the United States to date: the Civil War, the brief effort and then collapse of Reconstruction following that war, the Indian wars and suffering occasioned by the steady westward expansion of white settlement, the greed of the robber barons and their compliant, paid-for politicians of the Gilded Age, the often violent struggles between labor (urban and rural) and the owner-merchant class, and the first efforts at imperialism with the Spanish-American War and the subsequent bloody suppression by the US of Filipinos fighting for their independence. In short, Clemens/Twain had had a belly-full of the reality of human nature! In this lovely, very readable version of his autobiographical papers, one encounters a wise, still-often funny, and insightful American figure. His directness and candor -- aided by his knowledge that when these words were read he would have long been dead -- makes it seem as if the reader is being spoken to directly by Twain. There is a story that leads to another story, because of an incident related or a person remembered, and there are fascinating character profiles of persons known to us today as historical figures but who for Twain were personal acquaintances if not friends (for examples, Grant and Carnegie), and there are sorrowful remembrances of the deaths of his beloved ones. I would think that anyone who is interested in Twain, or who is just a lover of American literature and some of its principal figures, would find spending a couple of hours with this book to be of immense pleasure. While I read, Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens was still ALIVE speaking to me; when I closed its back cover he had rejoined the past, truly dead for over 100 years.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carl R.

    Even after a hundred years, you can’t beat Mark Twain for originality. After fiddling around with the idea of an autobiography or memoir for a couple of decades, rejecting most of his efforts as too literary, he finally around 1902 hit on the idea of 1) eschewing chronology; and 2) dictating rather than writing the story of his life. Chronology ruined spontaneity, he reasoned, and allowed the writer to distort time and facts and hide behind the need to stick to a time line. The act of writing le Even after a hundred years, you can’t beat Mark Twain for originality. After fiddling around with the idea of an autobiography or memoir for a couple of decades, rejecting most of his efforts as too literary, he finally around 1902 hit on the idea of 1) eschewing chronology; and 2) dictating rather than writing the story of his life. Chronology ruined spontaneity, he reasoned, and allowed the writer to distort time and facts and hide behind the need to stick to a time line. The act of writing led to bookmanship which turned a life story into a novel, an artifice. Thus, he sat up in bed in the morning, a stenographer at his service, and began talking about whatever entered his mind. The notes would be typed up and filed. He stipulated that most of what he said would not be published until a hundred years after his death (in 1910, as it turned out) because he intended to tell the unvarnished truth, and it might take a century to assure that his criticisms would harm neither their target (especially if it was himself) or their families unto three generations. I’m glad we finally have this, and thank Jim and Becky for the gift. The editors at the Mark Twain project of the Bancroft Library in Berkeley, headed by Harriet Elinor Smith, had a prodigious task to track down all the letters, notes, events, and references in the Twain files, which had been worked over by several other editors and transcribers and filers. What they’ve turned out is a weighty (about 5 pounds) tome which says on the cover is volume 1. The page count (736, including index, etc.) tells only part of the story. A more conventional font size would have easily pushed the the book over the thousand mark. Not only that, but the actual autobiography doesn’t begin until over 200 pages into the work, the opening pages being consumed by other writings, mostly heretofore unpublished but not necessarily part of what Twain labeled autobiography. I’m making it sound like this is more of a scholarly treatise than anything else, and that might be an accurate view. However, not far in, I began to view it as a treasure hunt. Lots of gold. You need to be patient and persistent in shoveling the dross, but who would want to miss out on passages like this: Paige (the inventor of the typesetting machine which famously cost Twain a couple of hundred thousand in lost investment dollars) and I always meet on effusively affectionate terms; yet he knows perfectly well that if I had his nuts in a steel-trap I would shut out all human succor and watch that trap till he died. You can see why Twain might want to wait a while before that saw print. Or this on Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving day is a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized they really had something to be thankful for --annually, not oftener--if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as all ll on the white man’s side, consequently on the lord’s side, consequently it was proper to thank the lord for it and extend the usual annual compliment.s The original reason for a Thanksgiving Day has long ago ceased to exits--The Indians have long ago been comprehensively and satisfactorily exterminated and the account closed with heaven with the thanks due. Like most people, I knew something about Twain’s life--his boyhood in Hannibal Missouri, his riverboat days which changed him from Samuel Clemens into Mark Twain, his adventures in the California/Nevada gold and silver country, his disastrous investment in a typesetting machine that cost him two years of international lecturing to pay the debt. I’ve been to his house in Hartford, CT, checked out the burglar alarm and pool table and telephone. But I knew nothing of him as a family man, devoted to wife and daughters. A wife whose health was frail from early childhood (The ailment that kept her in bed for two years is still a matter of speculation.), and which sent them around the world looking and hoping for cures until she finally succumbed to something (heart failure on the death certificate) in 1904 at the age of 58. Two other daughters died young--Susie at 24 of meningitis, Jean at 29 of a heart attack thought to be connected somehow with her epilepsy. A lengthy section of the autobiography is devoted the biography of her father Susie began at age sixteen biography--her text and his commentary--and is quite poignant. Twain/Clemens had far more to him than curmudgeonry. Other than his venture into the typesetting scheme, I knew nothing of the author as businessman. But he was one, and active in various capitalistic ventures his whole life. Most of them had in one way or another to do with publishing. He was always in negotiations with his publishers over his own work, and often convinced he was being cheated, and was often right. But he also had his own (in a partnership) company for many years. It’s main score was the publication of the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, which turned a huge profit. However, there were a number of other successes before the company finally went belly up through misappropriation of funds by the partners. I also didn’t know how much time he lived abroad--a good fifteen-twenty years all over Europe--and in New York and Connecticut. And finally, you’d expect him to know most of the literati, but he was also friends with rich, famous, and political figures of all stripes--Grant, of course, Grover Cleveland and his pretty wife, John D. Rockefeller, and so on. Thus, when he turned seventy in 1905, he’d not only had a long and productive literary career, but had become and international rock star of sorts, whose celebrity far outstripped the mere putting of pen to paper. We close with a few words from the remarks he made at the dinner honoring his achievement of reaching three-score-and-ten, a place Susanne and I both aspire to reach at different times this year. I have had a great many birthdays in my time. I remember the first one very well..I hadn’t any hair, any teeth, I hadn’t any clothes on, and I had to go to my first banquet just like that. I have achieved my seventy years in the usual way; by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else. I have made it a rule to go to bed when there wasn’t anybody left to sit up with; and I have made it a rule to get up when I had to. It has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain when awake. As for drinking, I have no rule about that. When the others drink, I like to help; otherwiseI remain dry, by habit and preference. This dryness does not hurt me, but it could easily hurt you...let it alone. I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting, and I never intend to take any...it cannot be any benefit when you are tired; and I was always tired. .. I’ve devoted more space to this work than any other in Writer Working, and barely touched on the learning, wisdom and laughs therein. The effort is not inconsiderable, but the rewards? Stupendous.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Finally finished this so I'll be boring people at social functions a little less with Twain minutia, maybe. Was absolutely hooked by the first paragraph, which made me laugh out loud twice. This is a lean 500 pg. edit of Twain's full autobiography -- which apparently contains full novels. This edit is from 1958, before all of what Twain wrote was even available. I think it focuses too much on his Twain's takes his contemporaries -- Brett Harte, Marie Corelli, Thomas Bailey Aldrich -- all of whom Finally finished this so I'll be boring people at social functions a little less with Twain minutia, maybe. Was absolutely hooked by the first paragraph, which made me laugh out loud twice. This is a lean 500 pg. edit of Twain's full autobiography -- which apparently contains full novels. This edit is from 1958, before all of what Twain wrote was even available. I think it focuses too much on his Twain's takes his contemporaries -- Brett Harte, Marie Corelli, Thomas Bailey Aldrich -- all of whom he slags. There are three chapters devoted to Brett Harte alone, which probably is reasonable in the three-plus volume full edition, but in this condensed edit it comes off as professional jealousy. Before I read Twain in college, my impression from school was of a folksy midwesterner who wrote kids books and used the N-word freely. The folksiness really turned me off, probably because it is so often imitated without Twain's sharp edges. Twain is never folksy as a contrivance for nostalgia, but only to lull readers into comfort before twisting his knife. Obviously the way Twain talks about race is unacceptable today, but if you get down to his actual beliefs he's really modern. There is much more to write on this obviously, but I don't have time.

  30. 4 out of 5

    C. Patrick G. Erker

    Mark Twain is my favorite author. There is some hometown favoritism, but he is objectively a hilarious man, whose ability to garner laughs has withstood the test of time and generational change. The fact that he's from near St Louis and had very close ties to that city throughout his life, and is closely associated also with my adopted and spiritual hometown of San Francisco, doesn't hurt. His progressivism, often ignored in light of his portrayal of non-white characters in some of his books, sh Mark Twain is my favorite author. There is some hometown favoritism, but he is objectively a hilarious man, whose ability to garner laughs has withstood the test of time and generational change. The fact that he's from near St Louis and had very close ties to that city throughout his life, and is closely associated also with my adopted and spiritual hometown of San Francisco, doesn't hurt. His progressivism, often ignored in light of his portrayal of non-white characters in some of his books, shines through in his autobiography, and is worth celebrating. His autobiography is appropriately hilarious. I listened to it (to the Charles Neider version), although I also bought a copy of the 1959 version from Neider because I felt it important to have a copy of it. His opinion of his own place in contemporary culture is higher than I thought. Perhaps his arrogance is mostly tongue-in-cheek. But it was something that surprised me a bit in the book. He suffered a ton of personal loss in his lifetime, losing siblings, children, and a wife before his own life ended at what was then a fairly ripe old age. Who is the Mark Twain of today? We need one! He brought so much joy into the lives of so many people during his life and since.

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