Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2: The Complete and Authoritative Edition

Edited by Benjamin Griffin, Harriet Elinor Smith, and other editors of the Mark Twain Project. Univ. of California, $45 (776p) ISBN 978-0-520-27278-1
Several chapters into this sprawling volume, Mark Twain (“Sam,” to his friends) professes: “I can say now what I could not say while alive—things which it would shock people to hear.” Though not quite shocking, these rambling reminiscences (spanning 1860 to 1906, when Twain began dictating them) offer tart appraisals of matters personal (“In the early days I liked Bret Harte . . . but by and by I got over it”), political (“[Theodore Roosevelt] represents what the American gentleman ought not to be, and does it as clearly, intelligibly, and exhaustively as he represents what the American gentleman is”), and universal (“The political and commercial morals of the United States of America are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet”). The detailed and digressive narrative ping-pongs back and forth between the past and present, covering incidents including: Twain negotiating the publication of Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs; his youthful interest in mesmerism; the San Francisco earthquake of 1906; and swindles he endured from publishers. Twain traveled extensively and befriended many luminaries, and his colorful experiences give the book the same Dickensian scope as the first volume, and presents a vivid picture of America in the 19th century and Twain’s indelible mark on it. 50 b&w photos. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
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