Mark Twain, Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1
Twain’s life, as only Twain could tell it
Mark Twain was never known for shying away from a cutting remark – the more outrageous the better – so it’s doubly-insulting that no less than four publishers have both violated his injunction not to publish his autobiography for 100 years after his death, and have done so with eviscerated, politically correct edits. That makes it quite fitting that the first authorized edition of Twain’s autobiography also delivers his life’s story as he truly intended to tell it. This first volume of three is a brilliant mess, a mammoth compendium of crossing paths that’s more reminiscent of Tristram Shandy than your standard-issue celebrity memoir. Though Twain dictated the bulk of this work to his secretary as an old man, the wit here is as desert-dry as anything from his heyday, but it’s moderated by a folksy, intimate tone that reflects dictated delivery from this lifelong stand-up comedian. The older and wiser – but not quite mellowed – Twain seen here looks back with nostalgia and detachment on first loves, childhood homes, and publishers who dared cross him, offering stirring reminiscences and avuncular anecdotes. But it’s not all gauzy: he also blasts war and politics and outright human stupidity, and he offers a tear-jerking recollection of the day his dearly beloved Olivia passed on.