Ignorance, Confidence, and Filthy Rich Friends: The Business Adventures of Mark Twain, Chronic Speculator and Entrepreneur

Peter Krass, Author John Wiley & Sons $29.95 (278p) ISBN 978-0-471-93337-3
Mark Twain: humorist, novelist, and business guru? That last label may come as a surprise, but the preeminent American author spent most of his life in pursuit of wealth: as a riverboat captain, a silver prospector, a newspaper owner, an investor and an inventor. Krass (Portrait of War) tries to adapt Twain's life story and trademark wit for the business how-to format, with mixed results. Krass's attempts to incorporate Twain's rascally humor into his business writing often misfire, due to bad setups and over-explanation (Twain: ""Vice flourished luxuriantly ... A crowded police-court docket is the surest of all signs that trade is brisk."" Krass: ""However, vice never did become a leading indicator used by the government to monitor the economy's health""). Fortunately for Krass, the ups and downs of Twain's business ventures, in which he made and lost vast sums, prove thrilling in themselves. As ruthless as Twain could be in print, he was even more vicious and unapologetic in business: for instance, he repaid his father-in-law's investment in his newspaper by ending the newspaper's criticisms of his father-in-law's dealings. Krass' book is most entertaining-and useful-treated as a business-minded biography rather than a guidebook.
Reviewed on: 03/05/2007
Release date: 03/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
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