“I’ve struck it!” Mark Twain wrote in a 1904 letter to a friend. “And I will give it away - to you. You will never know how much enjoyment you have lost until you get to dictating your autobiography.”
Thus, after dozens of false starts and hundreds of pages, Twain embarked on his “Final (and Right) Plan” for telling the story of his life. His innovative notion - to “talk only about the thing which interests you for the moment” - meant that his thoughts could range freely. The strict instruction that many of these texts remain unpublished for 100 years meant that when they came out, he would be “dead, and unaware, and indifferent” and that he was therefore free to speak his “whole frank mind”.
The year 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of Twain’s death. In celebration of this important milestone, here, for the first time, is Mark Twain’s uncensored autobiography, in its entirety, exactly as he left it. This major literary event offers the first of three volumes and presents Mark Twain’s authentic and unsuppressed voice, brimming with humor, ideas, and opinions, and speaking clearly from the grave, as he intended.
Edited by Harriet Elinor Smith and other editors of the Mark Twain Project.
Mark Twain (1835 - 1910) was born Samuel L. Clemens in the town of Florida, Missouri. One of the most popular and influential authors our nation has ever produced, his keen wit and incisive satire earned him praise from both critics and peers. He has been called not only the greatest humorist of his age but the father of American literature.
©2010 2001 by the Mark Twain Foundation. All Rights Reserved. Transcription, reconstruction, and creation of the texts, introduction, notes, and appendixes copyright 2010 by the Regents of the University of California (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“With the uncensored Twain finally here, we’re the furthest thing from indifferent.” (Time magazine)
“Twain’s memoirs are a pointillist masterpiece from which his vision of America - half paradise, half swindle - emerges with indelible force.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Mark Twain, always so blithely ahead of his time, has just outdone himself: he’s brought us an autobiography from beyond the grave.” (Ron Powers, author of Mark Twain: A Life)
As an English teacher, I like to get Audible books that are entertaining because I am reading, researching, and grading all the time during the school year. I have loved Twain all my life and have even gone to Hannibal to participate in workshops - which were awesome. When I heard the autobiography was being released, I was thrilled. When I started listening to all the acknowledgements, I thought, "How interesting to know who the people and institutions are who contributed to this great work." Then when it began to sound more like an autobiography of those who edited and sweated and argued and agreed over the many processes that go into the manuscript, I thought, "This is not about Twain but about those who put the book together. So it should be called the AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CONTRIBUTORS TO TWAIN'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY." I cannot pick up a book or an audio book and not give it fair chance, though, so I trudged on. The first fifteen chapters or so are not what I believe Twain had envisioned for his autobiography. I believe that Twain Scholars would love this book and use bits and pieces in university level classes, but I think Twain wanted it to be published without all the credits to the additional contributors. I have finally reached parts that are uninterruped chapters of Twain, but then between the chapters there are always "discussions" or "commentaries" on what went into putting the book together. In a way, I feel tricked by the way this "autobiography" has been marketed because it is not PURE Twain autobiography. It is too "heavy" for continued interest. I am hoping it "lightens up" with the text Twain intended. I may have to put it away until summer but if I had known that it was going to be a compilation of compilations through the decades of those who contributed, I would not have gotten it and wish I had my credit back. I give it three stars because I know scholars would love it and the Twain sections are satiric with some serious sides of Twain.
At the time I purchased this edition there was only one review on this site and it criticized the book for "endless dribble on the making of autobiography...very boring." Needless to say I was a bit concerned, but I have waited so long for this work to be released I went ahead and ordered.
This autobiography is thrilling for people, like me, who are devoted to the works of Samuel Clemens. This is the first volume of his autobiography which Clemens instructed not be published until one hundred years after his death.
Yes -- there are long passages of scholarly notes, what the previous reviewer called "endless dribble." This is an important work of history, requiring diverse sets of notes, letters and dictations made by Clemens over many years to be collected and woven together into one work. Clemens undertook to write an autobiography and then had several changes of mind and heart over the years, leaving for posterity an unfinished autobiography and diverse manuscripts needing to be pieced together. This volume has detailed notes on context, primary references and other information important to understanding how the various manuscripts are pieced together. That is why I think the contents ("List of Manuscripts and Dictations") is especially useful for following the audio version, as it allows listeners to have a sense of format, and to skip ahead as needed without being lost in citiations.
The chapters that contain Clemen's writing are pure Mark Twain. Here are candid notes about his life, his successes, his failures; candid observations of people he knew -- such as Ulysses S. Grant. I am listening with awe, and with goosebumps. Here is the autobiography that we had to wait a hundred years to read. I'm looking forward to the next volume (understatement).
The narrator is a good match for this work.
Grover Gardner is one of the two or three best narrators of Twain, and he does an outstanding job on this (sometimes) difficult material. The difficulty isn't because of Twain's writing, or in this case speaking -- he dictated most of this material, and you can "hear" him sometimes backing up and correcting himself. Twain's writing is one of the wonders of the natural world, and he's the only writer who can make me laugh out loud on the subway.
The difficulty in this case is the background of the project and Twain's design for an autobiography. The audiobook is basically everything in the printed volume except the footnotes. It includes the extensive introduction (how the editors identified the order of the various typescripts), several hours of "false starts" (autobiographical material Twain published elsewhere before settling on this plan), and extensive captions for each section. Gardner's clear and resonant voice keeps everything in perspective, but there's a lot to digest. If you're a Twain fan, you'll be grateful. If you're not, this book wouldn't be your best introduction. It probably helps to have a good grasp of the essentials of Twain's life before going into this one.
It's chronological -- not according to Twain's life, but according to the order of dictation. Twain wanted to combine aspects of diary and autobiography into a single scheme, one that left him the ability to jump from one subject to another as the spirit moved him. And it moved him quite a bit. A given day's dictation could cover six or seven different topics, each with Twain's eye for the illuminating detail and the perfect self-deprecating turn of phrase.
For diehards like me, it's a feast, a cornucopia, an incredible act of generosity on the part of editors, publishers, and reader. But it does require careful listening.
I'm sure this will be great, eventually, but the first 4 chapters are just background, historical notes and other stuff. I think this is one of those books that is much better appreciated on the printed page. I'll know better in another 3 or 4 chapters, I guess.
I totally agree with those other reviewers who mention 'endless dribble' or , as Susan of Ozark, MO states: this work should be billed as an autobiography of the contributers to the autobiography . . . WAY TOO MUCH INFORMATION about the editing, compiling... It's difficult enough that Twain/Clemens chose to include endless detail in his dictations. Add to that the endless detail about "The Making of . . . " and you have a boring few hours interspersed with periodic character assassinations (mostly reserved for Twain's publisher and literary peers/competitors) and some all-too-brief, humorous glimpses of the Twain we love. Now we know why autobiographies should be edited!!!
Audible addict since 2003. High School librarian who has found her bliss!
I live in Elmira, NY (home of Livvy, and the place where Twain was buried). Even before I moved here I was fascinated by Twain's writing and my interest has only increased over the years. I vaguely knew that he had left some writings for future publication and I was thrilled when I saw that Audible had it. Have to admit that the foreword was a bit discouraging, but once past that it just got better and better, until by the end I truly felt that I was having tea with Samuel Clemens and listening to his wonderful stories. I could almost smell the cigar smoke!
Great job -- can't wait for the next volume!
To have his words put down exactly as he spoke them is awesome. I love the way he thinks and speaks. An honor to know him this way at least.
Some works of literature are best read aloud. This is true of most of Mark Twain's writing. Unfortunately this is not true of most scholarly work. I appreciate the amount of scholarly research that was necessary to assemble the Autobiography of Mark Twain. That doesn't mean I want to listen to it. The narrator commences this work with an introduction that contains detailed descriptions of the various hand written and typed manuscripts and the multiple edit marks. After an hour of this tedium, we are finally treated to some of Mark Twain's writings. This might have been tolerable if they had quit there, but each section of each chapter is introduced with more details about how it was selected and assembled. When I go to a concert, I want to hear music. I know there are musicologists who have studied the intimate details of the compositions. There is great skill that goes into this study, but scholarship is not music. Neither is it literature. I have some advice for editors who insert their scholarship into fine literature. Words written about literature are not literature. There are some people who care about these details, but they are exceedingly few in number. This is what post notes are for. If you ever again feel compelled to contaminate a work of literature with your own composition, go take a nap. Bye and Bye, the compulsion will pass. If it doesn't, find another line of work.
Much of the content isn't Twain -- the book is interrupted with endless extended footnotes and chapter introductions by the editors.
The opening "acknowledgments" section itself goes on forever.
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