Pin It

'Who is Mark Twain?,' Mark Twain 

Not ready for 2,000 pages of Mark Twain? Here’s an appetizer instead.

click to enlarge art15835.jpg

Consider this slim edition an appetizer for the 760-page main dish arriving on bookshelves later this month. That volume — the first in a three-part series — is The Autobiography of Mark Twain, the dictated memoirs of one of America’s greatest writers. By Twain’s own decree, it’ll be the first time his reminiscences are published in their complete, unexpurgated form. (He demanded they not be released until 100 years after his death, which occurred in April 1910.) 

But it’ll also be one hell of a long book.

Thus, the existence the amuse-bouche before us. Who is Mark Twain?, published in April, collects 26 of Twain’s letters, stories, personal papers and unpublished essays. At a slim 256 pages, it’s a quick — though challenging — read.

In fact, nearly half of the book consists of challenges fired at one group or another. Twain, celebrated in life for his acerbic wit, is even more tart here, sharing unpublished “unpopular convictions which common wisdom [forbade] him to utter” in life, as he writes in one of the book’s essays, “The Privilege of the Grave.”

In three separate pieces, he lambastes the American press for editorializing and sensationalism. He digs into class struggle and the meaning of Jefferson’s “All men are created equal.” While acknowledging the importance of faith in one essay, he blasts the prudish hypocrisy of organized religion in several others.

Of course, it’s not all fighting words. There’s some gentler fiction here, too, including a darkly humorous story about a family of undertakers struggling to make ends meet during healthy times, or the tale of a dog who barks Morse code on the battlefield.

There are also a handful of pieces that could’ve been left unpublished, or, at least, are of interest only to the most devout fans: a short critique of Jane Austen, a rant about manuscript postage rates, a promising interview with Satan that meanders into a pointless discussion of cigars.

Still, even in these incomplete pieces, there are moments of brilliance — certainly enough to whet the appetites of those moving on to the entrée in a few weeks.

  • Pin It

Latest in Arts & Culture

  • Multimedia Composer
  • Multimedia Composer

    "Force of Attraction" reflects Larry Ellingson's fascination with light, sound and making art with unusual stuff
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • The Closer
  • The Closer

    Distilled: Crying in our beers
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • For Your Consideration
  • For Your Consideration

    A great read, a helpful comic and fresh hops abound
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed
Weaving Our Sisters' Voices

Weaving Our Sisters' Voices @ Gonzaga University Magnuson Theatre

Fri., Oct. 9, 8:30-10 p.m., Sat., Oct. 10, 2-3:30 & 7:30-9 p.m., Sun., Oct. 11, 2-3:30 p.m., Fri., Oct. 16, 7:30-9 p.m., Sat., Oct. 17, 7:30-9 p.m. and Sun., Oct. 18, 2-3:30 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Joel Smith

Most Commented On

  • Image Conscious

    The Civic opens its season with the unfettered "glitz and glam" of a con man's story
    • Sep 16, 2015
  • Sasquatch Man

    A man in Chewelah says he can communicate with Sasquatches and aliens, and also find water in the ground
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • More »

Top Tags in
Culture & Food



for your consideration



© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation