Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mark Twain's Still Making News With His Writing

Mark Twain graced the New York Times Book Review recently. His autobiography, Volume 1 of “The Complete Authentic Unexpurgated Edition, Nothing Has Been Omitted, Not Even Scandalous Passages Likely to Cause Grown Men to Gasp and Women to Collapse in Tears — No Children Under 7 Allowed to Read This Book Under Any Circumstance” (whew!) has been released 100 years after his death, per his instructions.

Garrison Keillor's review of Twain's autobiography is nearly as entertaining as Twain himself. In fact, one of my favorite things about the New York Times Sunday Book Review is the reviews themselves, which are often more interesting and better written than the books they are reviewing. A snippet of Keillor on Twain here:

...bravo to Samuel Clemens, still able to catch the public’s attention a century after he expired. He speaks from the grave, he writes, so that he can speak freely — “as frank and free and unembarrassed as a love letter” — but there’s precious little frankness and freedom here and plenty of proof that Mark Twain, in the hands of academics, can be just as tedious as anybody else when he is under the burden of his own reputation. Here, sandwiched between a 58-page barrage of an introduction and 180 pages of footnotes, is a ragbag of scraps, some of interest, most of them not: travel notes, the dictated reminiscences of an old man in a dithery voice...

And it goes on from there. Twain's comments on his well-known contemporaries were a hundred years before WikiLeaks. The only thing that makes them more entertaining is Keillor's take on them. Enjoy.


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