The Autobiography Of Mark Twain is a book written by a committee (the Mark Twain Project). Actually it is four different books.
- The making of ‘Autobiography of Mark Twain’
- Miscellaneous Writings of Mark Twain
- Autobiography of Samuel Clemens
- Biography of Samuel Clemens
When I started reading this book I was excited. The introduction made this out to be a hidden gem, which was seeing first light 100-years after Clemens’ death as per his request. It turns out this wasn’t the case. Most of the material had been published before. Clemens had an experiment in mind regarding writing an autobiography. It wouldn’t be in any particular order, and would be 100% truthful even if embarrassing (or boring). Because he dictated rather than wrote this work it comes across as a real mess. At his advanced age I don’t think Clemens was in the best of health or frame of mind to write his biography. The second section of this book seems made up of random pieces that were not funny nor insightful. At this point I give up on the book.
Some months later I bought an Kindle, and put the book on the device. I was opening this book to test various features of the device and found myself reading more and more. I had accidentally read up to the third part of the book. Using his daughter Susy’s biography (started when she was 13 years old), Clemens expanded on her writing; using it as a launching pad for more detailed stories. Often these were funny, and the book became a delight to read.
This autobiography deals with Samuel Clemens’ private life. He commented very little on his literary life, which is why calling this book the Autobiography of Mark Twain is misleading. As per his request the book jumps around a lot. I found it very distracting. A good editor would have dropped a lot of tangential stories that were not amusing nor informative.
The autobiographical section was followed by detailed notes commenting on the preceding section. They were interesting and often refuted Clemens’ claims or clarified his stories. Had I been the editor I would have figured out how to included them in the flow of the autobiography- even if they were long footnotes. This brings up an interesting problem with the Kindle- footnotes are hard to read. If I were programing the Kindle interface, I would access footnotes using the keyboard for one button access rather than the 5-way switch. I would also make them pop up rather than switch to a different page.
This is book one of a planned three books series. After slogging through this first book, I’m not interested in reading book 2 or book 3. If the following two books have the same ratio of material, it would have made more sense to publish one autobiography, one book containing notes and additional material, and everything else accessible via the internet.
The Associated Press had sent the World’s misstatements over the wires to all parts of the country free of charge for the reason, no doubt, that that statement slandered General Grant, lied about his son, dealt the Century Company a disastrous blow, and was thoroughly well calculated to sharply injure me in both character and pocket. Therefore it was apparent that the Associated Press were willing to destroy a man for nothing, but required cash for rehabilitating him again. That was Associated Press morals. It was newspaper morals, too. Speaking in general terms it was always easy to get any print to say any injurious thing about a citizen in a newspaper, but it was next to impossible to get that paper or any other to right an injured man.
The more things change the more they stay the same.
I seem able to forget everything except that I have had my head shaved.
A funny story about his shaved head and Italian flies.
It is the will of God that we must have critics, and missionaries, and Congressmen, and humorists, and we must bear the burden.
Mr. Burlingame gave me some advice, one day, which I have never forgotten, and which I have lived by for forty years. He said, in substance: “Avoid inferiors. Seek your comradeships among your superiors in intellect and character; always climb.”
“Gott sei Dank ich bin schon fertig mit’m Gott verdammtes Haar!”
Thank God I’m already finished with the god damn hair!
I hope I am mistaken, yet in all sincerity I believe that this peace is entitled to rank as the most conspicuous disaster in political history. (SLC 1905d)
I found this fascinating. Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his efforts negotiating a peace between Russia and Japan. Clemens saw nothing good would occur from this. Since then the Russians lived through WWI, WWII, and the Cold War. Communism is responsible for the murder of another 100-million souls. And yet the anti-war movement doesn’t understand how destabilizing peace can be.