Autobiography of Mark Twain: Vol 1


In explaining his dissatisfaction with his early attempts to write his life story, Mark Twain blamed the narrowness of the conventional cradle-to-grave format: “The side-excursions are the life of our life-voyage, and should be, also, of its history.” This volume—the first of three—makes public autobiographical dictations in which Twain unpredictably pursues the many side-excursions of his remarkably creative life. Embedded in a substantial editorial apparatus, these free-spirited forays expose private aspects of character that the author did not want in print until he had been dead at least a century. Readers see, for instance, a misanthropic Twain consigning man to a status below that of the grubs and worms, as well as a tenderhearted Twain still grieving a year after his wife’s death. But on some side-excursions, Twain flashes the irreverent wit that made him famous: Who will not delight in Twain’s account of how, as a boy, he gleefully dons the bright parade banner of the local Temperance Lodge, only to shuck his banner upon finding a cigar stub he can light up? But perhaps the most important side-excursions are those retracing the imaginative prospecting of a miner for literary gold, efforts that resulted in such works as Roughing It and Innocents Abroad. A treasure trove for serious Twain readers. --Bryce Christensen

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