Autobiography of Mark Twain

I have been reading the “Autobiography of Mark Twain”. This is the one that has recently been published by the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley. Most of Twain’s papers are housed there and it was his wish that his account of his life not be published until 100 years after his death. Since he died in 1910, 2010 brought forth this remarkable document.

I prefer to call it, “Mark Twain’s Commentaries”, as that is what they seem to be to me. Mr. Clemens wished to publish his account of his life in a new style, one that was more of an unedited dialogue, than a written account that might be heavily edited by himself or someone else. Although he started this project several times, it seems that it was not until the invention of the typewriter, that he was able to speak it and have it transcribed as literally as he desired it to be.

One of the advantages he saw, in telling his life story in this manner, was that he could change subjects or time frames as new thoughts occurred to him.

My own response is, that reading it, is as if Mr. Clemens is speaking directly to us. This method of his, also provides a unique and almost eerie sensation in the reader, because Clemens is constantly reminding us that he will have been gone a century by the time we are hearing this very personal dialogue.

The current book is the first of three volumes that are to be published. The ones that follow may be arranged differently but for this one I would recommend that one approach it knowing that, what I call the Twain Commentaries, actually start on page 203 and end on page 467, in a book that comprises 737 pages in total.

It is not to say that all the rest is not equally fascinating, because it is, but if the explanatory notes and references (no matter how brilliantly done) make you restive to get to the man himself, I would suggest not being shy about jumping around a bit. I am quite sure that Mr. Clemens, being the master story teller that he was, would heartily approve.

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