Monday, November 1, 2010



And why not? If it’s the first of three volumes by America’s all-time favorite author and storyteller, a genuine tell-all that is irreverent, hilarious, poignant and sad; a monumental work for the ages. It deserves to be wrapped in luxurious paper garnished with a satin bow and given to anyone who loves American literature. The Autobiography of Mark Twain, (University of California Press 2010), was at Twain’s instructions, not to be released until 100 years after his death. Twain died in 1910 and his orders have been honored just in time for the Holidays.

The book's release is timed beautifully for our gift-giving season. It is the product of Twain’s dictation during his final years to a stenographer with two more volumes to be released later.

Mark Twain never really died, did he? A year ago at Atlanta’s Emory University, I took a course in Mark Twain, examining his “darker side.” There was as much laughter during class time as there was when I saw Hal Holbrook’s magnificent stage portrayal, “Mark Twain Tonight.” Twain eludes classification.

The Broadway musical, “Big River,” based on “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and featuring Roger Miller’s songs, is a masterpiece of song and dance that I recently saw at Atlanta’s glorious Balzer Theatre. Like Twain, Huck, Tom and Jim, remain vibrant, mischievous, mysterious and lyrical. 

As intended, Mark Twain speaks to us from the grave providing uncensored remarks about his friends and enemies. The University of California Press said that “[t]he strict instruction . . . meant that he would be ‘dead, and unaware, and indifferent,’ and that he was therefore free to speak his ‘whole frank mind.’” And he did.

I couldn’t put the book down. The wit, the daring observations, the command of language and the unbridled passion is irresistible. Mark Twain talked to me like I was his closest friend.

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