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Grant and Twain: The Story of a Friendship That Changed America Hardcover – May 4, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (May 4, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679642730
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679642732
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #661,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The friendship of Ulysses S. Grant and Mark Twain by no means changed America. It was, however, a remarkable and fascinating relationship that, though already intelligently told in numerous other volumes, is related quite well here. As Perry (A Fire in Zion: The Israeli-Palestinian Search for Peace) relates it, in 1881 Twain urged Grantâ€"out of office and out of favorâ€"to write his memoirs, but Grant refused. He reminded Twain that two accounts of his military exploits (by other authors) had been unmitigated flops. A few years later, bankrupt and afflicted with agonizing throat cancer, Grant finally agreed to write four articles for the Century Magazine on some of his Civil War battles. The Century also offered to publish his memoirs. Twain, on hearing Grant might be willing to write a book, hurried back to New York from a lecture tour to scoop the project away from the Century and arrange for publication by a small firm he controlled. Once the deal was done, Grant labored in a grim race to finish his narrative before cancer finished him. He completed his storyâ€"a masterpiece of fluent directness containing absolutely vital insights on Union army command strategiesâ€"in July 1885 and died soon after. Published a few months later, the Memoirs have never since been out of print. Perry does an excellent job of narrating Grant's and Twain's parallel lives and showing how their intersection at the end of Grant's life led to the creation of an American classic. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Despite the hyperbole that appears throughout the book, this is an engaging look at two American icons. Grant, like many people during the 1880s, was devoted to the idea of amassing great wealth. He joined a business partnership to which he contributed little beyond his own fortune and the luster of his name. When his partner proved to be a swindler, he had staggering debts and watched newspapers savage his good name. He became obsessed with finding a way to pay what he owed, insure his family's financial security, and restore his honor. When he was offered the opportunity to write a series of articles about his great Civil War battles, he felt compelled to comply. Twain, learning of a forthcoming offer for Grant's memoirs, determined that he would edit and publish them himself. Like Grant, he was suffering from financial reversals, and he had put aside a new book he had begun, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The two encouraged and inspired one another during the production of their greatest works. Perry shows readers new sides of these men in biographical sketches that precede the story of their friendship. The people and events of the Gilded Age are vividly portrayed with a wealth of original source material. Readers who have been daunted by the length of Grant's memoirs or by Huckleberry Finn may be encouraged by Perry's enthusiasm to read them. Thirty photographs and drawings are included.–Kathy Tewell, Chantilly Regional Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mark R. Masterson on July 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book gives real insights into these two figures - their character, motivations, and particularly their personal and professional relationship, and how they dealt with adversity. Quite fascinating. The juxtaposition of their lives in this book is a mirror on America, on slavery, on the Civil War, on the Gilded Age, and on a generation of men who achieved more and struggled much in a guts and gore America. This author really researched these men. He has a nice style, too. He creates scenes that put you into the daily river of their lives, yet it's not fiction or historical fiction. Bottom line, you see into their souls. I am just astonished at Grant's spiritual depth and strength. Remarkable man. Until recently I had seen him as a doleful dolt. He was mostly a silent and inward man, but liked being in the presence of friends and family. He apparently was a reader. He knew the times and he knew the spirit of the age. On a personal level he implicitly trusted people, even when they did him dirt, and when they did, he never returned the animus, but continued moving on. Yet he was not naïve in the least about human nature. This new book gives you a real appreciation of how deep he went into his soul to write his "Personal Memoirs," book one of which I finished last night. He knew he was dying and still wrote through excruciating pain and loneliness. The Mississippi River comes across as the force of life that bonds these two guys together and becomes a metaphor for the spiritual experience that is uniquely American. It is also a metaphor for the current of their lives, because neither man liked to retrace his steps. Grant had a lifelong superstition against returning on the same path. That's why so many of his military campaign follow strange routes around the enemy.Read more ›
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on November 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Mark Perry's Grant & Twain, The Story of a Friendship That Changed America is a good book burdened with an unfortunate title. Perry tells the story of the relationship between U.S. Grant and Mark Twain in the last years of Grant's life. The story describes in great detail the circumstances surrounding the writing by Grant and the publication by Twain of Grant's Memoirs.

Perry describes Grant's rise from obscurity, a string of commercial failures, and an otherwise undistinguished military career before becoming commander of the victorious Grand Army of the Republic in the U.S. Civil War. Grant went on to serve two relatively undistinguished terms as President of the United States. Subsequently, Grant retired to New York, entered the business world, made a small fortune, lost it, and declared bankruptcy. In an act requiring great personal integrity, Grant promised to pay back all his creditors in full, something not required of him under the bankruptcy laws. He also set out to earn sufficient money to ensure that his family could live in ease in comfort. It was here that Twain enters the picture.

Perry also provides an overview of Twain's life in a fashion similar to that set out about Grant. By 1884, when Perry's story begins in earnest, Twain was already one of America's most famous authors. Twain had his finger in many pies, he was an inventor, investor, and, critically for this story, a publisher. As did most Americans of the age, Twain idolized Grant. He had met Grant before and they had struck up something of a friendship. Grant had begun work on a series of articles for a then highly popular magazine, Century Magazine. The first of the articles enjoyed great success and Grant agreed to write his memoirs. Competition for the publishing rights was fierce.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael Meredith VINE VOICE on October 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Mark Perry's "Grant and Twain" may well be the only work in which the personality of Mark Twain plays second fiddle to another. Whereas Twain was a giant of literature, Grant was a giant of humanity and this book offers plenty of evidence in that regard.

U.S. Grant was such a mass of contradiction. He was a soldier with a distaste for war, yet he possessed little fear in battle and deployed his forces with vicious ferocity. He was a man of great ethical conviction, yet as president he headed one of the more corrupt administrations in our history. With a clarity no doubt inspired by Grant's writings, Perry explores those contradictions and how they made his relationship with Twain noteworthy.

A lesser historian might have just focused on Grant's final year of life, and how he approached his final illness with dignity and stoicism. But Perry finds deeper meaning in the ways that the mutual admiration between Grant and Twain came to influence them both.

Twain's effort to finish Huckleberry Finn dovetailed nicely with Grant's reluctance to write his memoirs. Grant's perspective on the South helped Twain flesh out some of the nuances within his work. The novel had stalled in the writing process and in fact had been shelved by Twain as having no promise. Meanwhile, Twain moved from basically looking for a publishing coup (that of winning the rights to Grant's memoirs) to a more nurturing role as writing mentor to the General. Twain's numerous business failures were legion, but Grant's writings were a notable exception. Perhaps that was due to the respect that Twain held for Grant prior to their association, or more a reflection of the admiration that he developed as the ailing ex-president applied himself to the task of putting his memories to paper.
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