"Shall I Learn to Be Good?" — This is Mark Twain
October 8, 2010 7:57 AM   Subscribe

This is Mark Twain. In preparation for the long awaited release of the uncensored Autobiography of Mark Twain *, the University of California Press and the Bancroft Library * have put together an informative site about Twain's life. It features two interactive timelines (one in chronological order and one using the order of events as written in the autobiography) with audio excerpts from the autobiography, video of the editors of the Twain Papers offering context, and historic images documenting his life. Also on the site, though confusingly linked as "more about the autobiography", is a short documentary about the Twain archives at the Bancroft. Worth a visit at the very least for this image of Sexy Sam. Uncensored indeed.
posted by Toekneesan (14 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Where does one start reading Twain's non-fiction?
posted by griphus at 7:58 AM on October 8, 2010

Griphus, I really enjoyed Life on the Mississippi. I grew up in an old Mississippi River town, and reading that was the closest I could get to the era short of inventing a time machine.
posted by TrialByMedia at 8:15 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's just something about Samuel Clemens that makes me weak in the knees, thanks for the site and the picture. I'm going to frame and prominently display it.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:19 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Actually, I was thinking less narrative and more ... well, I'm not sure. His takedown of James Fenimore Cooper was one of the funniest and most insightful things I've ever read and I just want more. So some of his writings in that vein?
posted by griphus at 8:56 AM on October 8, 2010

I'd also recommend "Roughing It", though I think that his non-fiction should be taken with a grain of salt.
posted by jgaiser at 8:57 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, "Roughing It"'s description of the Mormon leader griping about his wives is hilarious.
posted by Melismata at 9:17 AM on October 8, 2010

Non-fiction-wise Letters From the Earth is Twain at his most playful and acerbic as he takes apart the foolishness of holy rollers bit by hilarious thought-provoking bit.

A small observation here: I'm reading Dickens right now. I recently finished Great Expectations and am now on Oliver Twist (I avoided reading most of his works in HS because I was a arrogant little nerd, who didn't need to be told what to read, because by golly I was reading my ass off n anyway...yeah, I know...I needed a good ear boxing), and I'm just taken with what masters of plot and narrative Dickens was, and as is Twain in Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, Connecticut Yankee etc...while making astute observations of their respective cultures.

Just for sheer wonderful story, the kind that grabs you and transports you and makes you love a character or hate his guts and keeps your eyes glued, you can't beat either one of those two.

Seems to me most of the big prize winners these days are usually doing their version of these two...and here I'm thinking Peter Cary, take your choice...and let's say Frank McCourt's meisterwerk Angela's Ashes.
posted by Skygazer at 10:11 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just listened to the Librivox audio book of "Life on the Mississippi" and really enjoyed it. Mark Twain led a fascinating life.

Most of his books are available for free under the public domain at Librivox. The ones read by John Greenman are very professionally done.
posted by Emanuel at 10:49 AM on October 8, 2010

Someone seriously needs to take that Sexy Sam pic, turn it into one of those "READ At Your Local Library" posters, hang it up at their public library, and see what, if anything, happens to the barechested Mark Twain.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:13 AM on October 8, 2010

Oh, so that's what those kids were protesting yesterday!
posted by madcaptenor at 11:34 AM on October 8, 2010

Innocents Abroad is my favorite non-fiction. Here's the atheist Twain with a shipload of bible thumpers traveling the Holy Land (his shipmates admired him). Hilarity ensues. I love the part about local government having to post Turkish guards in the Holy Basilica (or whatever they call it) to keep the Christian sects from killing each other. If you haven't read it, stop wasting your time and do it.
posted by charlesminus at 12:25 PM on October 8, 2010

Thank you for this.
posted by valkane at 6:33 PM on October 8, 2010

"What if your child wrote a book about your life? How would the story of your days read when channeled through those shrewd, ­judgmental eyes? Would you seem like God when God walked in the garden, or would you seem like Papa Doc, the tyrant, the crafter of rules and breaker of ­treaties? This is what happened to Mark Twain."
His eulogy for that daughter, Susy, who died of spinal meningitis at the age of 24, always brings tears to my eyes:

Warm summer sun, shine kindly here;
Warm southern wind, blow softly here;
Green sod above, lie light, lie light;
Good night, dear heart, good night, good night.

Thanks for this post.
posted by zarq at 10:12 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

The autobiography is now available online.
posted by Zed at 10:10 AM on October 18, 2010

« Older But this addiction doesn't kill you   |   On not being obliged to vote Democrat Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments