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Publisher's Summary

“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 The strict instruction that many of these texts remain unpublished for 100 years meant that when they came out, he would be “dead, and unaware, and indifferent” and that he was therefore free to speak his “whole frank mind”.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.

Critic Reviews

“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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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Story

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  • Overall
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  • E. A.
  • New York State
  • 04-28-12

Only if you like research

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Mark Twain never could write an autobiography. As he says, he writes about what interests him--and it obviously is not his own life. Comments about others come easy to Twain but the reader has to dig to get a view of Twain's life. The sections from his daughter Susie, who died young, do give some continuity to this scholarly book. Mainly, it is incidents, thoughts, anecdotes and opinions that Twain puts down in any order and in any way he wants. Luckily, even his random thoughts are interesting. Don't come to this expecting to understand Twain's life. It is more a slice of life seen from Twain's twinkling eyes.

What was most disappointing about Mark Twain???s story?

The most disappointing part is that I came away not having a real sense of his life.

Have you listened to any of Grover Gardner???s other performances before? How does this one compare?

The narrator was excellent.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Hudson
  • Marietta, Georgia United States
  • 09-10-11

If they would just leave it alone

I'm only a few hours into this and if I could find some way to edit out the notes and details entered by the editors. Twain\s work is varied, as one should expect. So is dull, most would be wonderful, except for the notes on what was included and why. I imagine that a great deal of work went into this and that work is appreciated. But keep it out of a very interesting story written by a great writter.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • tennismike
  • Silver Spring, MD United States
  • 01-22-11

Disappointing. Twain Needs an Editor

This sprawling autobiography is a long, rambling assortment of Samuel Clemens' observations and recollections on his life. What I didn't know going in was that this huge volume is an academic attempt to connect all of the author's autobiographical essays into a multi-volume edition. I learned this from an interview with one of the editors on NPR. The editor explained that a reader could open to any chapter of the tome and have a cohesive read. Of course, that is harder to do on audio, and perhaps that's why the book seems so disjointed and rambling here. There are definitely sparks of that old Twain charm, especially when he writes about his youth. But the way the book meanders about, it is more of a chore to audit, and not as satisfying as I expected. I think the editors would do everyone a favor if they actually do some editing and give us a more cogent, concise picture of the man rather than the kitchen sink.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Tremendous, especially if you appreciate Twain...

The old quip, "this is a great book for those who like this kind of book," fits here, in that this autobiography may be rather overwhelming for those who are not already predisposed to admire Mark Twain. There is a great deal of dry historiography about the compiling of this project - the first of three projected volumes - and, frankly, it bogs down. Additionally, the text is far from chronological, and so it tends to be scattered and quite uneven. It includes a variety of fits and starts as Twain himself was ambivalent about the project. Some of the text was carefully written expressly to compose part of an anticipated autobiography, but even that was punctuated by one or two decade-long pauses. Much of the later text was transcribed from free-flowing dictation, as the author decided that a "true" autobiography ought to be based on spontaneous "streams of consciousness," assuming that what the subject recited would not be published until long after his death; preferably 100 years after. However, any reader who sufficiently appreciates the ideas, character and talents of Mark Twain, or simply has sufficient interest to stay with the book, will be richly rewarded. There are passages, quips and stories found throughout this volume that are every bit as insightful and entertaining as those that are better known and have long been lauded in his other works. Grover Gardner is the consummate narrator, whose inflections are so perfect that one is totally unaware of him, hearing only the author himself. The volume is highly recommended.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Excited for Volume 2 Release

I mean what can you say about Mark Twain's autobiography. It is interesting, it's entertaining, it's enlightening and it's Mark Twain's life and style. Good stuff.

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Only audio book I wanted to return

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

No, this was not time well spent. I expected Mark Twain. Instead I got a history of how the book was constructed, the typists, their typing style, every detail of what manuscripts were lost or found, the editors, the publishers. After many chapters of historical detail, there were short chapters of Twain. Even those chapters have long prefaces and prologues of more details that have nothing to do with Twain's story. Because it's an audio book, it's difficult to skip the numerous prefaces, endnotes and everything that's not Twain.

What do you think your next listen will be?

I've started a book on Bezos.

Have you listened to any of Grover Gardner’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I've not heard Gardiner before, but his performance was excellent.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

No, I don't think this would make a good movie. It would be a documentary, a poor one, and I love documentaries.

Any additional comments?

This book, mostly, is something other than MarkTwain's autobiography. This is the only book I wanted to return. Sadly, I started reading it long after I bought it and it's too late to return it.

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A books for strong admirers of Mark Twain

Would you try another book from Mark Twain and/or Grover Gardner?

The books spent nearly 30 min to get started about Mark Twain. The book goes into gory details and it is only volume 1. I was hoping to get a good biography not a dissertation

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Bit disappointed. I listened to one of his books - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - which I thought was superb

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  • Dan
  • Maryland, United States.
  • 01-13-17

Excellent

I listened to all 3 volumes, so I am only going to post a review here on the first. Overall, excellent as you would expect given the author. But, word of caution - it takes about 1/3 of the first volume to get going. Twain wrote his autobiography in fits and starts and the editors choose to start volume one with a portion he wrote as kind of a stand alone. Once you get past that, most of the material was written on a consistent basis, so the flow is much better. Recommend

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Mark Twain is hard to beat

This is a treat ... to hear the words of the word master, Mark Twain ... uncensored

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Loved it.

So many stories. Such a rich life. An iconic figure of American history brought to life through this reading. This volume ended with reading of a letter addressed to Mr. Clemens from Hellen Keller. Talk about a cliffhanger!