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HALL OF FAMEon November 1, 2014
If you only know Mark Twain from a vague memory of having read "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" or "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" when you were in school, you don't know Mark Twain.

Author, critic and playwright William Dean Howells--and Twain's friend for more than four decades--referred to Twain as "the Lincoln of our literature." But that was only one facet of Twain's life. He was a journeyman printer, steamboat pilot, newspaper reporter, prospector, world traveler, platform lecturer, inventor, businessman, family man, and at the time of his death he was the most recognizable man on the planet.

For almost forty years, I taught "Huck Finn" to my high school students and read everything about Mark Twain that I could find, including the original edition of his autobiography as well as published collections of his letters and biographies by Justin Kaplan ("Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain) Ron Powers ("Mark Twain: A Life").

Just when you think you have learned everything about Twain, the University of California Press comes out with the definitive version of his autobiography. Vol. 1, which came out four years ago during the centennial year of Twain's death, shined a light in corners of Twain's life that had not yet been exposed. This second volume does more of the same.

This is not for the casual fan. (The would better be served by Powers' excellent biography mentioned earlier.) But if you want to know Twain on an intimate level, you will want nothing less than each installment of this sprawling autobiography. Much of this may be seen as ephemera, like Twain's commentary on a passage from Susy's Biography regarding how numerous the houseflies were at the Hartford home. To the delight of the children, Olivia placed a bounty on flies, and the children went so far as to recruit neighbor children to provide them with flies to collect the bounty. Through each of these hundreds of anecdotes we get a glimpse of this remarkable 19th century renaissance man. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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on February 26, 2014
After finishing the second half of Twain's biograpy, I debated about giving it four stars instead of five, principally because of its rather surprising "abrupt" ending, but decided that the collective work is so remarkable in its format (so "Twain") that it deserves five. I actually have both volumes on my Kindle -- as well as in hard copies -- since their large size makes them cumbersome to hold -- much less read. But Twain's decision to dictate his words -- exactly as his thoughts emerged -- with no attention to either chronology or order of priority, makes this unique autobiography all the more interesting to read. It is as if you were spending time with him -- perhaps over a mint julip -- while he is recalling incidents, expressing opinions, and sharing his innermost private thoughts. HIs decision to not have the work published until 100 years after his death meant that his opinions could be freely expressed without risk of offending living individuals, or their family members. As a result, this is an ecclectic mix of a tell-all book and an intimate self-portrait, laced throughout with the expected humorous anecdotes typical of this beloved American author.
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on September 23, 2013
As with the first volume that was published three years ago, this autobiography is an oversize hardbook which means it may not fit into a bookshelf with other more traditional hardbooks. Also this edition is a rambling text with no chronological sequence. Mark Twain told stories as he remembered them as they came to him.

The good news is that there is more narrative of Twain's memories (450+ pages) and that all of the scholarly information (280+ pages) is at the end, unlike Volume 1. The only complaint is that half of the end-notes should have been brief footnotes to explain the context of the events and persons. The reader will need to shuttle back and forth now. What the reader has here is Mark Twain's true speaking voice --he is doing a monologue in your presence, going wherever his memory takes him. And it is pretty funny as he comments on the events of his times and settles literary scores -- see his savage critique on Bret Harte (page 119), as an example. If the reader read Volume 1, this volume is even better.
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on April 5, 2017
Even for a heavy reader, reading Mark Twain's autobiography is a unique and wonderful experience. Dictated in his natural, unaffected style, with publication held up for 100 years so that he could be frank without fear of hurting anyone's feelings, it is a masterpiece of authentic Americana. There is sheer delight in every page, as Twain skips from subject to subject as thoughts strike him. A born humorist with a contrarian's perspective and the vocabulary of a man of letters, Mark Twain totally deserves his place on high in our literary history.
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on January 1, 2014
The fact that Mark Twain could have best-sellers in 3 successive centuries says something about him, and something about us. His preferred method of composition, at the end of his life, was dictation which gives the text a liveliness that is quite enchanting. Some may be put off by the wealth of annotation, but a job worth doing is worth doing right, so a grateful tip of the hat to the editors.
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on February 14, 2014
Only the greatest of American writers can continue delivering fresh manuscripts a century after his death. After several false starts at an autobiography requested by fans and publishers, Twain was loathe to attempt it -- fearing that he would hold back his true feelings for fear of offense to others or of retribution to him or his family. Then he hit on a scheme to withold publication until a century after his death. During his final years he dictated almost daily random reminiscenes from his colorful life. His childhood, his days on the Mississippi, his sojourn west in the Gold Rush times, his socially active maturity. He knew politicians, kings and various luminaries. From U.S. Grant and King WIlhelm to Helen Keller and Oliver Wendell Holmes, they are all represented with or without their honest blemishes. Religion, world events, the painful loss of two of his own children, the results of his deep study of the human animal and the laugh-out-loud results of those studies is all here, in the unique style of the singular Sam Clemens.
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on December 22, 2013
Ok, I'm prejudiced, having fallen in love with the portions of Mark Twain's free-wheeling , discursive, touching Autobiography that Albert Bigelow Paine managed to publish in the 20s, but successive editors had either just carved chunks out of the remaining unpublished portions, or worse, as Charles Neider did, reorder everything chronologically and restrict the materials to the most anecdotal. (Honorable mention to the late Michael J. Kiskis, who published, as a stopgap, the portions of the Autobiography released by Twain in his lifetime, retaining the freewheeling structure.

At last, the Mark Twain Project is releasing the full, unabridged Autobiography- Mark Twain's last, and to my mind, most meaningful, work. This edition supersedes Paine's well-meaning--and not bad, as far as it went--overly mannered edition, and gives us Mark Twain in control of his ow story at last.

Can't wait for volume 3!
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on May 30, 2017
Worth every penny. Reads as if you were sitting on a broad porch, in the warmth of a summer day, over looking a river valley, listening to Mr. Twain muse over America, it's history, and his journeys through both.
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on March 14, 2016
Mark Twain is a national treasure. i ordered 'Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc,' while in the middle of this book because Twain stated it was his favorite, finished it while simultaneously reading the autobiography, and am surely impressed with it as well. i don't wish to quibble with those who gave it only four stars, or even wish to second guess those who believe it to be one- or two-star fare. Everyone is entitled to their own (******) opinion. The consensus of those who rated it 5 stars is for me the correct and intelligent choice. And i've no doubt Twain would agree!
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on March 14, 2015
He needed an editor. Mark Twain dictated whatever was on his mind over a period of years and enjoyed the fact that everyone he talked about would be dead before anyone read it. It's a marvelous book, but it doesn't seem like he reviewed his dictation and tossed the excess. I understand why he wanted to wait a century to have anyone read it: his brutal comments about politics and religion would not have played well in the first decade of the 20th century, but it is almost amazing to think that things aren't worse today, but pretty much the same. Too bad they didn't have audio tapes so we could hear the crackle in his voice. Because he's not trying to tell a linear tale of his life, it's probably the most honest autobiography ever written.
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