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"He was capable of composing entire paragraphs in his head."
November 16, 2010 10:12 AM   Subscribe

"He was capable of composing entire paragraphs in his head." Mark Twain's dictated autobiography available now, 100 years after his death, per his request.
posted by AugieAugustus (33 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Henry James dictated all his work after 1897, having developed a bad wrist during What Maisie Knew.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:15 AM on November 16, 2010


There are, though, two more volumes yet to be published, and what stands out in the first I have it on an e-reader) is how Twain decided to skip a narrative development and move back and forth in time as things occurred to him.
posted by Postroad at 10:20 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The then-forthcoming autobiography was discussed on the blue previously, just over a month ago.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:24 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


There was a very good guardian article on this recently, too.

Mark Twain: not an American but the American.
posted by dng at 10:24 AM on November 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


So Twain is unstuck in narrative time?
posted by maudlin at 10:25 AM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


The physical book version can also be used as a handy weapon.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:32 AM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm asking that my metafilter comments not be collected and published for at least a hundred parsecs.
posted by newdaddy at 10:36 AM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


for at least a hundred parsecs.

*knows this is a joke and a reference but still cannot resist urge to smash head against wall*
posted by joe lisboa at 10:42 AM on November 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


Mark Twain was a fucking badass.

That is all.
posted by kmz at 10:44 AM on November 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


The physical book version can also be used as a handy weapon.

No kidding. A friend just gave me a copy and I had to totally rearrange my non-fiction bookcase to accommodate it.
posted by brundlefly at 10:46 AM on November 16, 2010


*knows this is a joke and a reference but still cannot resist urge to smash head against wall*

Much like the Kessel Run occurs through an active asteroid cluester and must be navigated in both distance and time -- therefore, a 12-parsec run would be a short amount of distance spent navigating around moving asteroids -- we can assume that the book sent backwards through time has to...

Hang on, the UPS guy is here with my virginity.
posted by griphus at 10:51 AM on November 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


On what page does he mention Data?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:02 AM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


This has probably been linked here before, but I love this short video of Twain filmed by Thomas Edison.
posted by lobstah at 11:03 AM on November 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Rumors of his death preventing him from putting out new work have clearly been greatly exaggerated.
posted by quin at 11:17 AM on November 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


On what page does he mention Data?

Didn't he cover Data in "No. 44, the Mysterious Stranger"? ;-)
posted by aught at 11:30 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know he said not to publish for a hundred years but I think these are the same manuscripts that Charles Neider and Bernard DeVoto used to come up with the Twain autobiographies each of them edited. I don't think that very much new information will be revealed.

See also Mark Twain's Amazing Embargo--The brilliant brand management behind the handling of his autobiography.
posted by LarryC at 11:35 AM on November 16, 2010


Oh and also--I spoke yesterday with the state archivist for Nevada. They are about to release a digitization of Orion Clemens' Nevada correspondence. It was Orion who brought his little brother Sam Clemens west in 1861, a journey that Twain recalled in Roughing It. Apparently there are numerous references to Sam in Orion's letters from this period.
posted by LarryC at 11:37 AM on November 16, 2010


You know, I'm generally content to be the hack writer that I am, but I hear of the ability to dictate paragraphs like that (or going waaaay back, Milton dictating Paradise Lost) and then I wish I was much smarter.
posted by angrycat at 11:47 AM on November 16, 2010


Speaking of rarely-read Twain works, I have always thought The War Prayer should be required reading before any of his other works. It's a five minute read if you have a moment.
posted by notion at 11:52 AM on November 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


SPOILER ALERT

The first letter of the book is a capital "F" and the last letter in the book is a capital "U," followed by an appendix of names.
posted by Panjandrum at 11:53 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


My first reaction: Yay! New Twain quips!
posted by Raunchy 60s Humour at 11:57 AM on November 16, 2010


The War Prayer is indeed fantastic, and the last line is so perfectly indicative of everything I love about Twain. A lot of poetic imagery made sharp by a laconic barb at the end.

Wonderful, timeless stuff.
posted by quin at 12:11 PM on November 16, 2010


This has probably been linked here before, but I love this short video of Twain filmed by Thomas Edison.

I don't know what is more noteworthy, film footage of a great man filmed by a great man or the fact the page has two clever Youtube comments.
posted by fullerine at 12:17 PM on November 16, 2010


One review I read mentioned that he's the first author to have a bestseller 100 years after his death.

As someone said above, the man is a badass, even a century beyond the grave.
posted by blucevalo at 12:25 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


i have read most of Twains books, and everytime i come across a word or expression i don't understand, i just skip it. One has to have a very good understanding or the english language. To read through his written context and keep looking up countless words, that slows down the read to almost a halt.
posted by tustinrick at 12:46 PM on November 16, 2010


i have read most of Twains books, and everytime i come across a word or expression i don't understand, i just skip it. One has to have a very good understanding or the english language. To read through his written context and keep looking up countless words, that slows down the read to almost a halt.

::squints eyes, checks sarcas-meter reading, slaps meter to make sure it's still working::
posted by FatherDagon at 2:13 PM on November 16, 2010


There is a lot of material, including the full text of the Autobiography, and thousands of letters, at the amazing Mark Twain Project, which is run by the editors of the Autobiography. Lots of the carping about this new text not really bringing much "new" is missing the bigger point. One, that this is a critical edition, prepared by a team of dedicated editors, making every effort to produce, based on evidence at hand plus critical literary detective work, the book that Clemens actually wanted to publish. All of this fancy dictation, typing machines and whatnot make is very hard to decide what the author would have signed off on, had he lived to be part of the editing process. Part of the problem is that the publisher realizes it has a hit on its hands and is actively marketing a scholarly edition as if it were, I don't know, the author's cut of The Stand. But the Twain Autobiography is above all a contribution to the study of the man, and the fact that the book is available free, online, undercuts the notion that this all reflects Twain's 100-year-old marketing genius. A-and this is only Volume I, of three....
posted by chavenet at 2:49 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


i have read most of Twains books, and everytime i come across a word or expression i don't understand, i just skip it. One has to have a very good understanding or the english language. To read through his written context and keep looking up countless words, that slows down the read to almost a halt.
posted by tustinrick at 3:46 PM on November 16 [+] [!] No other comments.


you're right - looking up words as you go just ruins the sense of what you're reading, until you just get bogged down and quit.

I find I also have to skip words and phrases frequently when reading in a foreign language (ahem - including certain flavors of english). Generally I keep a highlighter nearby and simply highlight all the words I don't understand, while reading as quickly as possible, in order to get the sense of the story (or whatever). Then I go back and look up all the words I missed and write them down. Then I go back and re-read the whole thing, and it makes even more sense.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:51 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


The physical book version can also be used as a handy weapon.

Right up there with Shogun.
posted by ovvl at 5:18 PM on November 16, 2010


While I'm not looking forward to searching the immensity of a three [fat] volume autobiography, even as much as I love Twain, I'm going to have to in order to find my grandmother, who'd obliquely claimed on several key occasions to have made the acquaintance of Mr. Clements back in 1910.

In '86, when she confessed to me that she was anxious about the fact that, like Twain, she'd arrived on the tail of Comet Halley and was consequently concerned that she'd be departing with the comet, as he did.

"Joe-B, I've always loved that comet, but I'm not sure I'm ready to go just yet."

"You're not going anywhere," I said, with the certainty of my teen years. "Why would you have to go just because a ball of ice is closer to the sun?"

She shrugged, and looked pensive.

"Did I ever tell you that Mr. Twain was a lovely man?"

"How would you know that?"

"Oh, I know. I know a secret that only he would know."

"Oh yeah?"

"Sure," she said, mashing out the butt of a menthol cigarette in a plaid beanbag ashtray with a purposeful gesture. "It's a good one, too."

She leaned over and whispered something completely preposterous in my ear. I rolled my eyes and laughed at her, and not in a nice way.

"Aww, c'mon."

"Did Mark Twain ever write an autobiography? I bet it'd be in there."

"I don't think he did," I said.

"Well, darn."

Somewhere in there, there's the slightest possibility that Samuel Clements ran into the not-yet-born self of a woman who'd live a simple and relatively unimportant life in blue-collar Baltimore as one stepped aboard the tail of the comet and the other was stepping off, and I'm not sure if I want to find it or not, either to expose my grandmother as a lovable fraud or to find out something even more jarring about workings of the world, but I'll give it a look, just in case.
posted by sonascope at 6:00 PM on November 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


therefore, a 12-parsec run would be a short amount of distance spent navigating around moving asteroids

12 parsecs is more than 36 light years. Distances being relative and all, but damn, that is not a short distance.
posted by King Bee at 9:04 PM on November 16, 2010


Sonascope: the online Autogiography has a search function.
posted by chavenet at 1:45 AM on November 17, 2010


Mark Twain’s Autobiography Flying Off the Shelves.
posted by ericb at 1:19 PM on November 21, 2010


« Older Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen published th...  |  A rare video excerpt from 1994... Newer »


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