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Mark Twain: Man in White: The Grand Adventure of His Final Years Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 26, 2010

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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (January 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679448004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679448006
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Shelden (Orwell) centers on the writer's signature white suit—which first raised a ruckus when he donned it in the wintery month of December 1906 for an event at the Library of Congress. Shelden also sets the record straight with respect to Twain's continuing humor into his old age in spite of the deaths of his beloved wife and his epileptic daughter, Jean, and his often tempestuous relations with musical daughter Clara. Twain's last years were chock-full, including a feud with Mary Baker Eddy and encounters with Bram Stoker, Bernard Shaw, Helen Keller, and others. Much of the emotional void was filled by Twain's complex but seemingly platonic relationships with a series of girls. The last part of Twain's life was cynically managed by a team of his secretary, Isabel Lyon, and business manager, Ralph Ashcroft. Here is a well-researched book for all Twainiacs as well as those coming to the subject's late years for the first time. 46 photos. (Apr. 20)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Of Mark Twain in his final years, William Dean Howells remarks, “His literature grew less and less and his life more and more.” In Twain’s remarkable late-life surge in vitality, Sheldon discerns the surprising origin of the author’s iconic image. Challenging the widespread belief that Twain dwindled into impotent despair, Sheldon chronicles his last years as the triumph of an exuberant showman. This, after all, is the man who unexpectedly appears for a Congressional hearing clad in a stunning white suit and who never thereafter abandons his new sartorial luster. This, too, is the comic genius who in his seventies still sparkles with irreverent wit. Though it flashes through a few final published works (including a spoof on the afterlife and an iconoclastic swipe at Shakespeare), Twain’s septuagenarian wit mostly serves to punctuate an amazing range of nonliterary enterprises: building a new family mansion, waging legal battles to secure his legacy, underwriting a theater for impoverished children, claiming an honorary degree from Oxford. Yet, as Shelden recognizes, that wit ultimately reflects personal resilience in the face of financial reverses and family tragedy. Even on his deathbed, Twain rallies to bid farewell with wisecracks. Impressive scholarship delivers the authentic accents of a truly American voice. --Bryce Christensen

Customer Reviews

There's a (good) story behind it, and the book tells it well.
Ink & Penner
From the first chapters, Dr. Shelden's book sparkles and snaps just like Mark Twain did even in his final years.
Vermeer fan
Shelden has a great time writing about Twain's last years as a literary lion.
M. Bromberg

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Reader on January 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm the type of reader who loves a good story. I read fiction 90% of the time. I often find biographies to fall short of my desire to get engrossed in the lives of the characters. In order to cover all the important points of the subject's life, the author has to resort to summarizing. Not in this book! Michael Shelden has written a truly good story - and the great thing about his book is that it's a well-researched story about a fascinating character in American history which reads almost like a novel. I don't think I've ever said "I couldn't put it down" when I've attempted to read the best-selling biographies on the market. While reading this fabulous book, I ignored all sorts of responsibilities to finish it. Mark Twain was quite a character and Mr. Shelden does an excellent job telling the story of the last few years of his life.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Emmamck on February 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Without the burden of explaining Twain's early years on the river and the immortal characters of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, the biography begins with the donning of his infamous white suit and details the adventures of what turns out to be the last 4 years of his life. Were any of us to know how much time we had left, if nothing else, the biography serves as an example of how to live fully to the very end. We know Twain was a character but to know that much of his persona he invented was much like going behind the curtain in the 'Wizard of Oz'. Shelden is astute in every detail and weaves the facts into such a tale as to make you forget this is non-fiction. Entertaining, yes! Poignant, yes! You won't want to miss the ending, so ironic you couldn't make this stuff up. And yet, when you ponder it for a while, it was so Mark Twain. Kudos to the author for capturing the bigger than life reality that surrounded this figure the likes of which we may never see again. The pictures are worth the price of the book but the story is something you will be discussing with fellow readers for a long time.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Mary S. Lange on February 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Okay, I of course realize that Twain died nearly a hundred years ago, but Shelden's biography is so engaging that I seem to have lived the last few days with Twain. I could not put the book down, and could not stop sharing details I'd read with friends and coworkers. Thank you, Michael Shelden for sharing Twain's last years so vividly.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By D. Anderson on February 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The test for any biographer of Mark Twain is whether or not the author has been able to bring the magnificent life and wit and sorrow and wisdom of Twain to life. Michael Shelden has done this and more. I can smell nothing but Twain's cigar as I brush away the ashes.

Shelden tells a wonderful story of a lunch between Twain and George Bernard Shaw. After the lunch reporters questioned Shaw about his take on Twain. Even though they had just recently met Shaw answered that he felt he and Twain had known each other all their lives because of Twain's "complete gift of intimacy." Michael Shelden's pen has a similar gift.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Hubbell on March 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Mark Twain is easily among the most quoted writers of all time. He had a gift for matching his languid homespun observations with all manner of human folly. He was followed by reporters like a modern-day celebrity. But no modern-day celebrity could match Twain for his acerbic wit.

This book takes up the life of Twain shortly after the untimely death of his first-born daughter, Susy, and his wife, Livy. He enters the narrative in his much-heralded white outfit as he struts into a Senate hearing on a bill about copyrights. And what a life he had! Schmoozing with the scholastic, literary and political lions of his age. Receiving an honorary doctorate at Oxford with all due deference from his admirer Rudyard Kipling. Sailing choppy seas with industrial magnates. Dining with heads of state on both sides of the Atlantic.

But rubbing elbows with movers-and-shakers isn't what endeared me to The Master. Twain was especially fond of his Angelfish, that is, the young girls he courted as his own daughters:

"Walking along the beach one day with the girl, Twain picked up a small shell and gently separated the two halves. Giving her one, he said that if they met again at some distant time in the future, and she looked so different that he couldn't recognize her, she only had to produce her half of the shell to prove her identity. . . . The next morning, when he saw her in the hotel dining room, he went up to her with a sad face and pretended not to recognize her. . . As he turned to walk away, she cried out for him to stop and triumphantly produced her half of the shell. Twain beamed with pleasure, taking satisfaction from the scene because it was spontaneous on her part and cleverly theatrical on his.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David G. Covell on March 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This well researched book provides an affectionate look at our most beloved humorist in the last years of his remarkable life. Mark Twain's sometimes troubled relationships with family and close associates, his foibles and self-love are leisurely explored on a background of an American society that seems so different but often not so different from ours, 100 years later, and Mark Twain usually comes out on the side of the angels and good sense. The best of the book remains the skepticism and wit of Mark Twain himself, a man of humble beginnings, a self-made man who had "roughed it", but in his last years donned a white suit and, a little like a chaste Hugh Heffner, became the angel of an Aquarium of young women called Angelfish whom he loved and who loved him. At the very end the author touchingly elevates Mark Twain to visionary status when Twain predicted, almost to the day, the return of Halley's comet as a herald of his death--as it had, 75 years earlier, of his birth.
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More About the Author

Michael Shelden is the author of four literary biographies, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist, Orwell: The Authorized Biography, which was also a New York Times Notable Book. For fifteen years, he was a features writer for the London Daily Telegraph, and for ten years he served as a fiction critic for the Baltimore Sun. His latest biography is a groundbreaking account of the early life of Winston Churchill, Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill.

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