To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain: A Biography Paperback – December 15, 1991
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
John Kenneth Galbraith Even the best scholars, reading this book, will find themselves dangerously close to unqualified praise....Not only does Kaplan write economically and lucidly but he has a beautiful ear for Mark Twain's language, invention, and comedy.
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Kaplan's book will undoubtedly be the portrait of Mark Twain for this generation.
Howard Mumford Jones The richest, most subtle, and best-sustained analysis of Mark Twain anywhere to be found....This is a great book, one of the greatest analyses of an American personality.
Maxwell Geismar Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain is bold and discerning in its treatment of the central conflicts of that primitive genius, Mark Twain. It is illuminating to me in the discussion of complex and puzzling aspects of a dark and doubled personality.
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Clemens' first literary success was INNOCENTS ABROAD about his trip accompanying a group of pilgrims to the Holy Land. It was always one of his most successful books. It was also published by subscription, which means that it was sold pretty much door-to-door.
For me, one of the most entertaining parts of the book was Clemens' courtship of coal heiress Livy Langdon, whose brother, Charlie, had been one of the pilgrims on the INNOCENTS ABROAD trip. She rejected him, telling him she could never love him. He convinced her theirs could be a brother/sister relationship. Then he fell out of his carriage and she had to nurse him back to health.
Much of the book details Clemens' obsession with James W. Paige's typesetting machine, which eventually bankrupted him. According to Kaplan, Clemens always led a duel existence (hence the title), with Mark Twain, the famous writer and social critic, and Samuel Clemens, the incompetent entrepreneur, always at loggerheads.
Kaplan is almost offhandish when it comes to the early deaths of Clemens' daughters Susy and Jean. Clemens never recovered from Susy's death and Jean's preceded his own by just a few months.Read more ›
To get the negative out of the way early, there's a lot more psychobabble here than I expected. Kaplan's book won a Pulitzer and a National Book Award after its 1966 publication, and maybe I approached it too much with that acclaim in mind. His wife Livy is described when we first meet her as Twain's "superego", and much of the rest of the man's life story is similarly fed through a Freudian prism. There's also a good deal more information about Twain's various failed business ventures and invention gambits than you'd expect, or I think, really need.
Another choice Kaplan made was one I came around to in time, which was to start the book in the middle of Twain's life. When we meet him, Samuel Clemens is coming off his first success, the short story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County," and seeking his fortune on the East Coast, where writing talents had their best shot at fame and fortune. Ironically, Clemens found his by leaving the Coast, on a boat with a group of religious pilgrims which would form the basis of his breakthrough first book, "The Innocents Abroad." In the process, he formed the alter ego by which Clemens became famous, Mark Twain.
"He was, at the very least, already a double creature," Kaplan writes. "He wanted to belong, but he also wanted to laugh from the outside."
On the boat, for example, he coddled blue-nosed ladies and made shows of piety while jotting down notes for the book that would send them up for national ridicule.Read more ›
From there, it follows his rapid rise to become America's pre-eminent humorist and most popular stage lecturer in the next 5 years. Twain perfected the vernacular form of language in literature, and he reinvented the lecture circuit from high-minded, often religious or metaphysical presentations to humorous and mildly scandalous reviews. He also signed on with the "subscription" publishing method of house-to-house sales of books, rather than the more rarified form of selling books through stores in cities. Given his ability to speak to the common man, while showing a deeper side to the sophisticated reader, he was a cross-over star.
Along the way, Twain went from being a social outcast, a vagabond, a man running from the law more than once, into a wealthy and celebrated "genius" who was welcome at the table of presidents, literary giants and industrial leaders. And he feared not to criticize every one of them.
Yet, what the book brings out simultaneously is how conflicted Twain was about his success. He believed in the little guy and the regular guy, which he was. But he aspired to be an aristocrat, and he reveled in his own material success.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Intimate details and very long and unmoving. The story arc is missing but the life of Mr. Clemens is clear.Published 6 months ago by Jim Misko
This book is poorly written and never really gives you a good feel about Clemens' transformation. To begin with it starts when Clemens is in his 30's and misses out on how his... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Robert Presman
Impressive details of what made Mark Twain SLC a great author facing conflicting personal temptations, desires, achievements and losses. Well worth the readPublished 9 months ago by D. Imholte
Justin Kaplan certainly deserves the award that he won for this book. He took the life of an American legend and made it into a page-turner. Read morePublished on June 30, 2014 by Harriet
Fortunately for the biographer mark Twain was a very interesting charcter with an unusual and fascinating life story. Read morePublished on June 24, 2014 by BDW
Easily the best of the available biographies of Twain, this book offers a good deal of insight into the man, his triumphs, his foibles and his family life. Read morePublished on May 9, 2014 by Dan Gawthrop