I suppose I listened to the hype but I thought there might be some of Mark Twain in his prime here. Never mind that the editors' introduction is half an hour too long. Not his fault. But this is that self-impressed, dull Mark Twain who wrote all those books that aren't classics. There is little charm, no humor, and a void of interesting stories.
Apparently he had an idea that if a biography isn't sequential, it must be special. However, he didn't publish this book. It just came out a century or so after his death. So whatever the editors and publishers had in mind, this isn't a book Twain insisted on publishing. And one thing I certainly learned about Twain is that, if there was a chance to make money without embarrassing himself, he would publish. But wait, I already knew that. I don't think I learned anything new about the guy--or the writer.
Only historians of U.S, Grant would find huge hunks of this monster interesting. A lot of it I remember reading elsewhere. But most of all, if Twain wasn't writing humorously, he wasn't Twain for me.
Glimpses of life from the 1870's till Twain's death are scattered throughout which will probably delight historians.
Cut out some of his petty tales of spite. Whoever it is that was riling him up is also DEAD. I gave up after the first Audible segment but will try to finish--when my library is empty...
Clemens is as honest as a person can be but some of his petty grievances should have been laid to rest permanently 100 years ago. When he didn't like someone, he REALLY didn't like him. And his use of adjectives to describe the reasons for his dislike wore thin after only a few stories. However, I'm now anxious to learn more about U.S. Grant because of what a great a human being he was, according to his friend Mark Twain. I guess that shows Twain's flip side and just how effusiive his praise could be when he actually admired a person.
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After patiently waiting for the narrator to thank hundreds of patrons who made this listen possible, I finally got to hear the scholars who put the work together provide me with intriguing advanced organizers to help me navigate the next ten hours with Mr. Twain. When the book finally shifted into first person, I was treated to a delightful visit with a man like that uncle or grandfather that many were blessed with as children who would ramble through stories of his life both funny and poignant that you begged to hear over and over. His microscopic examination of the "Gilded Age" is a treasure. His discussion of his friendship and help to General Grant offered great insights into that interesting man. The listen never leaves the listener more than of few moments without another taste of Mark Twain's genius humor.
Like some of the other readers, I was impatient with the beginning of the audiobook: the Introduction accounts for nearly sixty pages of the print version. But after listening to this volume, which is only the first (!), I have come to think that the scholarly introduction enhanced my eventual appreciation of the work.
It is important for the reader to understand how different MT's is from other autobiographies, and the Introduction helps to make that clear. When I heard (read) that MT stubbornly insisted that his dictations were to be arranged just as he dictated them, rather than being reorganized into a chronological, more narrative order, I didn't think this could work. But the result is that I feel like I'm witnessing the operation of MT's own mind, and picking up the connections between what had happened previously in his life and the events of the days in which he was dictating.
In particular, I thought that his reconstruction of Susy's biography of him, with interspersed corrections and reminiscences, made that work (which I've read and taught as a separate publication called "Papa") come alive in a way which reading it by itself does not.
The reminiscences also make clear something that I had never noticed before, which is the extent to which he was a virtual New Yorker, at least later in life.
What comes through very clearly is MT's personality. I get the impression that it would have been a great thing to be his friend, but I would not have enjoyed being on his bad side! His scorn for people he saw as misguided, venal, or unreliable was withering.
To those who think the thing is just too damn long, I guess I would suggest that that is what you read an unabridged version for. An abridged version (leaving out the editor's introduction and some of MT's earlier autobiographical attempts) would probably be more readable, but I felt that this version rewarded my patience.
Yes, it's a doorstop, but I'm looking forward to Volumes 2 and 3!
From the multiple starts and stops at attempting an autobiography, Samuel Clemmens finds organization by using his daughter's biography, of him, as well as other methods as a rough outline to tell his tale. He is a good storyteller and Grover Gardner did a superb job. I did skip most of the first three chapters though as it was notes about how the autobiography was put together from so much separate material.
I have been a fan of Twain's books and love his wit and comments on life. This book was such a pleasure to "listen" to. I don't think I could have read it though. I like how it is not written from the time of his birth to when he finished writing, but how one story leads to another which leads to another. I really enjoyed this book and highly recomend it. I look forward to the next two volumes.
The book starts with a long preface on the Mark Twain project that I found very academic. The actual biography shows little of the wit and wisdom of Twain's books.
I am delightfully surprised at the humor and writing that is as fresh and readable (listenable) today as it was 100 years ago. Often a book that old is difficult to read and the phrasing is very different than books today. But the Autobiography of Mark Twain is so funny in many parts that you will laugh out loud (it is a rare book that can make you do that). It is not all humor. Many of the stories are tragic or dramatic. But they all have that flair and lightness that make them a true part of Mark Twain. The jumping around of topics is not disjointed but really makes the book enjoyable as you are not forced through the long narratives necessary to tie together good stories in a chronological autobiogrpahy. This is all of the good stuff without all of the filler. I can't wait for the next 2 volumes.
Grover Gardner does an excellent job of narration, but that can't overcome a book that is not only very disjointed, but delves way to deeply into topics that should be covered in a few minutes. The book should be retitled "The Ramblings of an Unorganized Mind." Doesn't come close to living up to the hype it received.