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Autobiography of Mark Twain

Volume 1, Reader’s Edition

Mark Twain (Author), Harriet E. Smith (Editor), Robert Hirst (Editor)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 440 pages
ISBN: 9780520272255
March 2012
$28.95, £19.95
Other Formats Available:
The year 2010 marked the 100th anniversary of Mark Twain’s death. In celebration of this important milestone and in honor of the cherished tradition of publishing Mark Twain’s works, UC Press published Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1, the first of a projected three-volume edition of the complete, uncensored autobiography. The book became an immediate bestseller and was hailed as the capstone of the life’s work of America’s favorite author.

This Reader’s Edition, a portable paperback in larger type, republishes the text of the hardcover Autobiography in a form that is convenient for the general reader, without the editorial explanatory notes. It includes a brief introduction describing the evolution of Mark Twain’s ideas about writing his autobiography, as well as a chronology of his life, brief family biographies, and an excerpt from the forthcoming Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2—a controversial but characteristically humorous attack on Christian doctrine.
Harriet Elinor Smith is an editor at the Mark Twain Project, which is housed within the Mark Twain Papers, the world's largest archive of primary materials by this major American writer. Under the direction of General Editor Robert H. Hirst, the Project's editors are producing the first comprehensive edition of all of Mark Twain's writings.
“This is a book to treasure for all friends of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.”—Acadiana Lifestyle Magazine
“Smith and her companion editors have accomplished a herculean task. . . . Their careful assembly of Clemens’ pre-1906 materials brings readers into both Clemens’ creative realm. . . . A more accurately arranged collection than any earlier edition has been able to offer.”—American Literary Realism
“Sometimes the autobiography seems Twain’s letter to posterity. At other times, reading it feels like eavesdropping on a conversation he is having with himself. . . . This first installment of Twain’s autobiography brings us closer to all of him than we have ever come before.”—New York Review Of Books
“Now, common sense, at last. We have, emblazoned big as life on the paperback cover underneath Twain’s photo . . . the words ‘Reader’s Edition.’ The very idea of it is a winner. . . . It is less academically punctilious but indeed more reader-friendly. . . . Now we have one of our greatest writers narrating his own autobiographical miscellany full of sorcery both previously familiar and new.”—Buffalo News
“Dip into the first enormous volume of Twain’s autobiography that he had decreed should not appear until 100 years after his death. And Twain will begin to seem strange again, alluring and still astonishing, but less sure-footed, and at times both puzzled and puzzling in ways that still resonate with us, though not the ways we might expect.”—New York Times
“There’s really nothing sulfurous about this book. Mark Twain is terrific company, plain and simple. He knew everyone, went everywhere, seemed to be interested in everything and is capable of making the reader — in 2010 — laugh on nearly every page. And this is not, strictly speaking, an autobiography. It’s an autobiographical miscellany, a collection of Twain’s many attempts to write about his extraordinary life. . . . This is a book for dipping, not plunging. Read, as Twain might put it, until interest pales, and then jump. It feels like a form of time travel. One moment you’re on horseback in the Hawaiian islands — or recovering from saddle boils with a cigar in your mouth — and the next moment you’re meeting the Viennese maid he called, in a private joke, ‘Wuthering Heights.’ We can hardly wait for Volume 2.”—New York Times/The Opinion Pages
“Twain generously provides the 21st century aficionado a marvelous read. His crystalline humor and expansive range are a continuous source of delight and awe. . . . [He] has given us ‘an astonishment’ in his autobiography with his final, beautifully unorganized genius and intemperate thoughts. Pull up a chair and revel.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review
“From Blair to Brand, Caine to Cole, the bestseller chart is awash with memoirs -- but none offer the extreme reading of the Autobiography of Mark Twain.”—Debra Craine The Times
“When Twain dictated his memoirs, he said he wanted to speak his whole, frank mind. But he didn't want the full text published until he'd been dead 100 years, ‘unaware and indifferent.’ With the uncensored Twain finally here, we're the furthest thing from indifferent.”—Time Magazine
“A major achevement.”—Choice
“Mission accomplished, Mr. Clemens.”—Roger Boylan Boston Review
“Promises a no-holds barred perspective on Twain’s life, and will be rich with rambunctious, uncompromising opinions.”—Herald Scotland
“Twain would approve!”—Bookideas.com
“Pure Twain at his typically discursive, rambling, and droll. . . . The bard of Hannibal still has much to say.”—American Heritage
“His '’whole frank mind,’ sharp and funny, is seared onto every page. A”—Entertainment Weekly
“From the army of Twain scholars at the University of California’s Mark Twain Project, comes the dazzling first volume of the ultimate, authoritative three-volume Autobiography of Mark Twain. . . . Twain’s writing here is electric, alternately moving and hilarious. He couldn’t write a ho-hum sentence. . . . To read this volume is to be introduced to Twain as if, thrillingly, for the first time.—Library Journal
“Brimming with Twain’s humor, ideas and opinions, this is a book for anyone interested in the writer’s work and life.”—Curledup.com
“Twain's autobiography, finally available after a century, is a garrulous outpouring—and every word beguiles.”—Wall Street Journal
“Twian’s ‘Final Plan’ has been released in a truly spectacular first volume of his posthumous ‘Autobiography’.”—Vitali Vitaliev Engineering & Technology
“Dangerously funny and opinionated, Twain was censored by himself, his family, and his literary executors. Here at last is his ‘whole frank mind.’”—American History
“In [this book] we get to enjoy the society of latter-day Mark Twain. . . . A matured, calmer, and fundamentally funnier Twain who seems more comfortable in his own skull.”—Brendan Kiley The Stranger
“The author’s authentic voice speaks clearly from the grave - brimming with humor, ideas and opinions.”—Radio Times
“What we have here amounts to the contents of Mark Twain’s attic: all the stuff that didn’t fit in the living quarters and that the man tossed upstairs, where for a century it gathered dust, cobwebs, and rumors.”—Michael Lewis The New Republic
“A major achievement.”—Choice
"'I can't wait to read that,' Stewart says. 'I just wish I could book him on my show.'"—Bonita Daily News (Naples, Fl)
“The fact that a century after the book concluded - with the author’s death - much of it still reads as compulsively as if it were being dictated in the next room.”—Tim Adams The Observer
“The Autobiography, as it begins here, is richly humorous, self-deprecating (if not always in earnest), full of anecdotes about great and small. . . . The meandering, the discursiveness, the parentheses promising the later resumption of a story (’And some time I wish to talk about that’), the mockery (desolate at bottom) of pretension, all these distinguish this first volume. We will have to mark time until there is more, but the wait is bound to be worthwhile. It's been a century coming, after all.””—The Australian
“Leaks are coming slowly, but steadily, like singles from a highly anticipated album, but a new excerpt from Newsweek reads like a smash hit, as Twain shows off his wit and schools a librarian.”—Village Voice
“The merit of the autobiography is its revelation of every facet of Samuel Clemens – how modern a figure he is, and how topical his concerns. Take the polemical verve of Christopher Hitchens. Toss in the fun-poking news instincts of the American broadcaster Jon Stewart. Add the traveller's curiosity and gentle wit of a Bill Bryson, plus the raw energy of Ernest Hemingway, and then stir in an entire Oxford dictionary of aphorisms, and you start to get an approximation of a man who spanned virtually every literary genre – and in the process became one of the most quoted (and misquoted) writers to walk the earth.”—The Independent
“Pure Twain—crotchety, sarcastic, funny as hell, cynical, profound, and narrated by someone aware of his approaching death.”—Counterpunch
“I start reading Twain’s Autobiography at any page and don’t want to stop, for the sheer voluptuous pleasure of the prose.”—Roger Ebert Twitter: Roger Ebert
“Easier on a reader's arms and eyes.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer
"'I can't wait to read that,' Stewart says. 'I just wish I could book him on my show.'"—Naples Daily News (Ap), Naples, Fl
“A treasure trove for serious Twain readers.”—Booklist
“This first volume (of three) is impossible not to admire, so fluent and entertaining a picture does it provide of Twain’s life.”—William Skidelsky Prospect
“The editors have done a remarkable job with the ramblings of a very good rambler, producing a volume the size of a small encyclopedia, with two more to follow.”—James Campbell Daily Telegraph
“The tone is crisp, at times scandalously so, but often it is the shock of the unmediated truth that is so funny.”—George Walden Eastern Daily Press
"'I can't wait to read that,' Stewart says. 'I just wish I could book him on my show.'"—Tulsa World (Ap), Tulsa, Ok
“Mark Twain is his own greatest character in this brilliant self-portrait. . . . Laced with Twain's unique blend of humor and vitriol, the haphazard narrative is engrossing, hugely funny, and deeply revealing of its author's mind. . . . Twain's memoirs are a pointillist masterpiece from which his vision of America--half paradise, half swindle--emerges with indelible force.”—Publishers Weekly: Nonfiction (2)
“If Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the first Great American Novel, then Twain’s autobiography is set to be the first great read of the decade.—The Sunday Business Post (Ireland)
"'I can't wait to read that,' Stewart says. 'I just wish I could book him on my show.'"—Associated Press
“It feels like a form of time travel. One moment you’re on horseback in the Hawaiian islands - or recovering from saddle boils with a cigar in your mouth - and the next moment you’re meeting the Viennese maid.”—International Herald Tribune International Herald Tribune
“In its freewheeling, associative blend of character studies, press cuttings, family history, letters and public speeches, it evokes Twain's personality with a near-hallucinatory clarity. . . . Twain employs a light touch, never pausing too long on the same scene, never letting accuracy stand in the way of a good story, putting off academic rigour for the 300 pages of endnotes he probably knew someone would furnish. Flights of fancy inspire anecdotes and vice versa in inexhaustible succession.”—The National
"'I can't wait to read that,' Stewart says. 'I just wish I could book him on my show.'"—Airforce Times (Ap)
“A treasure trove of history and scholarship, testimony to Twain’s vibrant personal life and complex mind, and to the skill, precision, and passion of the Twain Papers’ editors.”—Western American Literature
“. . . the value of this volume comes not from the new information about his life but rather from the way in which it reproduces the torrent of his wit, the irrepressibility of his voice, more fully than ever before.”—Jonathan Bate Sunday Telegraph
“Twain's uncensored writings show the same penchant for humor and sharp social commentary as his novels.”—Houston Chronicle
“Twain’s Autobiography is ... experimental, but not free-form. To borrow his metaphor, his narrative stream is less like a canal than a tributary—and it’s well worth panning for the gold. Above all else, the work uniquely captures the processes of individual memory.”—The Brooklyn Rail
“Everywhere there are arresting passages in which the author’s unrelenting candor shines through.”—George Walden Evening Standard
“For our grasp of Mark Twain -- for our belief, ever since he burst on the scene in 1865, that we know him through his prose -- the book is a gift and a treasure.“—The American Spectator
“One of the most heavily anticipated events in the literary world.”—Ft. Worth Star Telegram
“It is a thoughtful and humorous reflection of events he lived through.”—Stuart Lake Eat Anglican Daily Times
“This first volume (of three) is impossible not to admire, so fluent and entertaining a picture does it provide of Twain’s life. . . . The text becomes a picaresque adventure story, full of brilliant characters and scarcely believable anecdotes, balancing the mordant wit so prominent in Twain’s fiction with affectionate portraits of those close to him.”—Prospect
“His fiction belongs in the classics section, but this autobiography is a 21st century bestseller.”—The Missourian/Vox
“The book gives an inside view into the life and mind one of the most talented writers in American history.”—Springfield (Ma) Republican
"Mark Twain dictated much of this book—now it is a book at last—from a big rumpled bed. Reading it is a bit like climbing in there with him."—Roy Blount, Jr.

"To say that the editors have done an extremely good job is a little like saying the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel does a good job of keeping the rain off the Pope's head. It is true but it doesn't give even a whiff of the grandeur of the thing."—Robert D. Richardson, author of Emerson: The Mind on Fire

"Mark Twain, always so blithely ahead of his time, has just outdone himself: he's brought us an Autobiography from beyond the grave: a hundred-year-old relic that yet manages to accomplish something new. It anticipates the Cubism just taking form in Samuel Clemens's last years, by exploding the confines of orderliness, sequence, the dutiful march of this-then-that. In so doing, it gives us not simply Mark Twain's life—that is the prosaic work of biographers—but the ways in which he thought of his life: in all the fragmented recollection, distraction, creation, revision and dreaming that make up the true, divinely jumbled devices we all use to recapture experience and feeling. If this prodigious and prodigal pastiche were a machine, it would be the Paige typesetter—except that it works."—Ron Powers, author of Mark Twain: A Life

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