Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Autobiography Of Mark Twain, Volume 2

Bryan Woolley at the Dallas News offers a review of the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2.

Over the years, Samuel L. Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, the most famous man in America, made dozens of attempts to write his autobiography. Each time, he failed to complete the job. He would file away the unfinished manuscript, and a few years later he would try again, and fail again and file again.

Finally he gave up the idea entirely because, he said, there’s no such thing as an honest autobiography: “You cannot lay bare your private soul and look at it. The man has yet to be born who could write the truth about himself.”

Yet the University of California Press has now published Volume 2 of what in a few more years will be the Complete and Authoritative Edition of the Autobiography of Mark Twain. Volume 1, published in 2010, the centennial of Twain’s death, comprised 736 small-print pages of text. Volume 2 is 733 pages. When Volume 3 is published, the autobiography will be the approximate size and weight of an anvil and about as easy to lift and carry.

Don’t blame Mark Twain for this unwieldiness. It’s the scholars who buried his book in enough prefaces, notes, indices and other academic machinery to break its back. Mercifully, early this year, the University of California published a 400-plus-page Reader’s Edition of Volume 1, in larger, more readable type without most of the scholarly apparatus, leaving Twain alone to entertain and enlighten his readers and make them laugh, which he’s superbly capable of doing.

So what happened? How did Twain’s belief that “there’s no such thing as an honest autobiography” evolve into this massive Autobiography? The answer is one of the most fascinating things about this endlessly fascinating work.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

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