Happy Quasquicentennial to Us!

February 16th, 2018 marks the quasquicentennial of University of California Press, celebrating 125 years of scholarly publishing since its founding on this day in 1893. Throughout this time, UC Press remained one of the most forward-thinking publishers in the world, collaborating with scholars, librarians, and authors, to publish high-quality, peer-reviewed scholarship.

With $1000 appropriated by the University of California’s Board of Regents, UC Press was established “to publish papers prepared by members of the Faculty,” 25 years after University of California was founded in 1868. The first UC Press publication was Outlines of the Temporal and Modal Principles of Attic Prose, a pamphlet by Greek Isaac Flagg, which went on sale at the student store in Berkeley in 1893.

From its inception, UC Press disseminated scholarship that has undergone rigorous peer review, and championed work that influences public discourse and challenges the status quo in multiple fields of study. Today, UC Press continues to serve as the nonprofit publisher of the University of California system, publishing 200 books and 30 multi-issue journals each year, and maintaining 4,000 book titles in print. Its mission to drive progressive change by seeking out and cultivating the brightest minds and giving them voice, reach, and impact is evident by its award-winning editorial program. A selection of awards UC Press titles has received in recent years includes: American Book Award, CHOICE Award, Municipal Art Society of New York Brendan Gill Prize, American Musicological Society Award, Daedelus Foundation Award, Smithsonian Eldredge Prize, National Jewish Book Award, ASCAP Foundation Virgil Thompson Award, and PROSE Award.

UC Press has also been recognized as an innovative, global leader in digital publishing, critical to its goal of making its content widely accessible. Its Open Access products, which include Collabra: Psychology, Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, and Luminos, benefit from the same high standards for selection, peer review, and production as its traditional publishing programs.

Editorial Director Kim Robinson states, “Books make a difference, and I’m enormously proud to be associated with the long publishing history of University of California Press and its progressive publishing mission. Our authors consistently provide vital context and background to the most pressing issues facing us today, and we strive every day to ensure that their critical voices are heard.”

UC Press currently publishes in American studies, anthropology, ancient world/classical studies, art history, Asian studies, California and the West, communications, criminology, economics, environmental studies, film & media studies, food, geography, history, Latin American studies, Middle Eastern studies, music, psychology, public health, religion, and sociology.

Notable UC Press publications from decades past include:

To celebrate this milestone, UC Press will launch Voices Revived, a new cross-disciplinary series that brings field-defining, out-of-print books back into print.

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1: The Story Behind the Cover

By Harriet E. Smith, Associate Editor, Mark Twain Project


Photograph by William Vander Weyde, 21 September 1906.

Most images we have of Mark Twain from 1906 show him posing formally in a studio, or are full-body shots taken by his secretary or daughter—probably with a Kodak “Folding Pocket Camera,” which most amateurs used at the time. This one, however, is a rare candid shot taken by a professional photographer, William Vander Wyde, who visited his home on Fifth Avenue in New York on 21 September 1906. Later that day Clemens wrote to his friend Mary Rogers about the occasion:

I was reading yours when the photographer entered the room. I dropped my hand & looked up, & he said: “There—don’t move—stay just as you are, the letter in your hand—a good pose! looks just as if you’d been interrupted, & wanted to use language!” I said, “Oh, no, nothing severer than ‘Don’t, Mary’ ”—& he laughed the laugh which a person laughs when he pretends to understand but knows very well he doesn’t. He made a half a dozen negatives & said he would have couple of finished pictures awaiting me at the house on my return Sunday eve, from Norfolk.

He went on to talk about his daughter Clara, who was about to make her professional debut as a singer in Norfolk, Connecticut.

Clara & I have had a chat. . . . She says I mustn’t lead her on the stage; also she says I must. She has a dread that the house will call for a speech. I said “I will excuse myself.” “But they won’t take the excuse.” “Then I will say, “I would gladly respond, but Mr. Luckstone, who was to accompany me on the trombone, has unfortunately caught a cold.” She said that if I would be sure & stop there—& so forth & so forth.

Clemens did not introduce Clara, but when he approached the stage after her performance to congratulate her, the audience called for a speech, and he delivered an informal talk that lasted (as he recounted in his autobiography) “for fifteen or twenty minutes. . . . Clara had heard me make a good many speeches, and so when she said of this one ‘it is the happiest talk you have ever made,’ I said she was a competent judge and would endorse her verdict.” To Clara’s dismay, however, he received more newspaper coverage than she did. A review of the concert appeared in the New York Sun with the headline “Twain’s ‘First Appearance.’ At His Daughter’s Singing Debut He Tells How Stage Fright Once Gripped Him.” It included a complete text of his speech (which a reporter had taken down in shorthand), and Clara was not mentioned until the last paragraph, where it was noted that “she displayed some nervousness in her opening number,” but then “acquitted herself with coolness and effect” in performing works by “Grieg, Schubert, and Haydn, among others.”

Read the stories behind the covers of the other two volumes of the Autobiography of Mark Twain.

Mark Twain opines on Thanksgiving

You can pick almost any subject and find Mark Twain’s opinions expressed on it somewhere. Thanksgiving is no exception.

In an address given at the first annual dinner of Philadelphia’s New England Society in 1881, he begins with the words “I rise to protest,” and goes on to question the celebration of the landing of the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in quite amusing terms, (though not without a good dose of moral indignation at the same time).

Twain by Joseph Keppler appeared on the back cover of PUCK, Dec. 23, 1885. From the Dave Thomson collection.

In Volume 1 of the Autobiography, we are given another view of his thoughts on the holiday, this time through his ironic complaints on a conflict over the scheduling of his 70th birthday party:

This talk about Mr. Whittier’s seventieth birthday reminds me that my own seventieth arrived recently, that is to say, it arrived on the 30th of November, but Colonel Harvey was not able to celebrate it on that date because that date had been preempted by the President to be used as Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for annually, not oftener if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side, consequently it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments. The original reason for a Thanksgiving Day has long ago ceased to exist the Indians have long ago been comprehensively and satisfactorily exterminated and the account closed with Heaven, with the thanks due. But, from old habit, Thanksgiving Day has remained with us, and every year the President of the United States and the Governors of all the several States and the territories set themselves the task, every November, to advertise for something to be thankful for, and then they put those thanks into a few crisp and reverent phrases, in the form of a Proclamation, and this is read from all the pulpits in the land, the national conscience is wiped clean with one swipe, and sin is resumed at the old stand.

The President and the Governors had to have my birthday the 30th for Thanksgiving Day, and this was a great inconvenience to Colonel Harvey, who had made much preparation for a banquet to be given to me on that day in celebration of the fact that it marked my seventieth escape from the gallows, according to his idea a fact which he regarded with favor and contemplated with pleasure, because he is my publisher and commercially interested. He went to Washington to try to get the President to select another day for the national Thanksgiving, and I furnished him with arguments to use which I thought persuasive and convincing, arguments which ought to persuade him even to put off Thanksgiving Day a whole year on the ground that nothing had happened during the previous twelvemonth except several vicious and inexcusable wars, and King Leopold of Belgium’s usual annual slaughters and robberies in the Congo State, together with the Insurance revelations in New York, which seemed to establish the fact that if there was an honest man left in the United States, there was only one, and we wanted to celebrate his seventieth birthday. But the Colonel came back unsuccessful, and put my birthday celebration off to the 5th of December.

The Clemens family in Hartford, Connecticut, 1884.

Thanksgiving at home, though, was a more familiar affair, with plays performed by his children, and much of the traditional family togetherness we associate with the holiday today.

Note from the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1: In 1789 George Washington created the first nationally designated Thanksgiving Day, held on 26 November that year. Subsequently, the holiday was appointed by presidential and gubernatorial proclamation, but irregularly and not on a uniform date. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that a national Thanksgiving Day henceforth would be celebrated on the last Thursday in November, which in 1905 was the fifth Thursday, and also Clemens’s birthday. In 1939 Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the date to the third Thursday of November, and in 1941 Congress passed legislation definitively establishing Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in November.

See another post on the history of Thanksgiving as a national holiday, as well as one on Mark Twain’s birthday, which includes a giveaway of the complete set of the Autobiography!

In honor of Mark Twain’s birthday

Mark Twain liked to entertain and be entertained, but his 70th birthday party was truly an evening to be remembered. Thrown by Colonel George Harvey, the editor of Harper’s Weekly, at Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York, it included a souvenir pamphlet, and speeches were given by luminaries of the day.

Mark Twain’s 70th birthday celebration, December 5, 1905, Delmonico’s Restaurant, New York. Courtesy of the Mark Twain Papers, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

In honor of Mark Twain’s birthday this year, we invite you to celebrate on November 30th.

Not feeling up for staging a grand party? Here are some suggestions to whet your appetite for revelry.

  • Host an intimate affair including some of his favorite foods. Oysters and champagne remain a perennial favorite, or peruse this list for a menu of your own making.
  • Dress as the man himself. It is Movember, after all.
  • Play charades, a favored game of the Clemens family.
  • Smoke a cigar (one at a time, please).
  • Raise a glass of his esteemed “cock-tail” (see slideshow below for recipe).
  • Curl up with a copy of your favorite Mark Twain book.

However you choose to pay homage, get creative and share your photos using #HBDMarkTwain on Instagram (uc_press) and Twitter (@ucpress) between now and December 1st. Two entrants will be randomly selected to receive complete sets of the Autobiography (Volumes 1-3).



University Press Week #TBT | Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 – 2010’s Book Publishing Cause Célèbre


We’re celebrating University Press Week #UPWeek by taking part in their scholarly press blog tour through this Friday. Today’s blog tour theme is “#TBT – Throwback Thursday” (featuring our contributed post below); please click over to these excellent scholarly publishing blogs as well and learn more: Project MUSEUniversity of Minnesota Press, University of Chicago Press, University of Manitoba Press, University of Washington Press, Duke University Press,University of Texas Press, University of Michigan Press, University Press of Kansas, Minnesota Historical Society Press, and University of Toronto Press Journals.

Prior to its Fall 2010 release, the University of California Press was well aware that the first installment of the Autobiography of Mark Twain was going to be a significant publishing event and a strong, steady seller (initial print run: under 5000 copies). Prognosticating it to become a bestseller over time morphed in a few short months into an impending, bona fide blockbuster ‘BESTSELLER’, a status not traditionally bestowed upon a university press book release.

The frenzied interest in Mark Twain’s “100 years repressed” candid recounting of his life and times resulted in an avalanche of coverage across print, online, radio, television, and social media outlets, months prior to and following the book going on sale. Here’s our #UPWeek #ThrowbackThursday account of the singular, truly amazing publishing event that took place five years ago. (#ReadUP!)



A soft launch of the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 in early 2010 via UC Press’ Twitter feed kicked pre-release promotional efforts off, in order to get audience response to our proposals for what photo to feature on the book’s dust jacket. Through this social media outreach (the book’s release month: November), we solicited constructive feedback and engaged with potential book purchasers at a relatively early stage (search hashtag #MarkTwain and you’ll see what a hugely interested audience exists regarding him!).

In May, having seen mention of the Autobiography on social media, an L.A.- based correspondent for the UK’s The Independent propelled the campaign forward with an interesting (although factually flawed) news story about impending publication. People immediately responded not only to the story of the Mark Twain-imposed 100 year embargo of the book, but also to the idea that there might be shocking and salacious offerings in the Autobiography.

Within a day, major news organizations – Time, Entertainment Weekly, the AP, YahooNews, Slate, Huffington Post, Fox News, CBS National News,The Guardian – ran stories about the forthcoming publication, as did major blogs like BoingBoing, Gawker, and even celeb gossip site PerezHilton (particularly notable because he receives millions of hits a day).

Perez Twain

The next big publicity break in July was the airing of a PBS NewsHour segment that featured interviews and footage filmed in the Mark Twain Papers archive, generating a flurry of requests for book galleys and creating a buzz in the blogosphere and Twitter-sphere. Two days later, a front-page feature story ran in the New York Times about the forthcoming publication of the Autobiography, syndicated to major newspapers across the country and further fueling interest.

After this successive coverage, UK literary magazine Granta went to press with the first pre-publication excerpt given to a media outlet. It was a risk giving the excerpt to a literary magazine rather than a more commercial outlet, but it felt appropriate due to their having internationally respected contributors plus a highly educated, literary fan base. Their being granted the excerpt was a significant deal for them, and they publicized it widely with events and interviews in the UK and U.S. Immediately, newspapers here and abroad publish articles specifically about UC Press’ decision to give the first excerpt to Granta, generating yet another news story angle.

Keeping the story fresh for months before publication leads to the Autobiography becoming a trending topic, spun to meet the needs of different audiences. The Onion (website: 23 unique visitors per month) appropriated the coverage about potential revelations in the book with a parody article, validating the publication of the Autobiography as a culturally salient event. In a similar vein, the book was satirized in Craig Ferguson’s opening monologue for CBS’ “The Late, Late Show”.

On August 9, Mark Twain ran as the cover story of Newsweek in their special Books issue.

Newsweek Twain

Moving into autumn, fall arts preview coverage starts to appear in media outlets across the country. Time lists the Autobiography as one of 14 books to read. Speaking about the Autobiography, comedian Jon Stewart, promoting his own book at the same time, quips to the AP, “I can’t wait to read that. I just wish I could book him on my show.” Harper’s runs another pre-publication extract in the Readings section of the magazine.

In early October, six months into the media frenzy, books start hitting shelves. Within weeks of release, stories about the bestselling status of the book begin appearing en masse.

Salon.com editors post, “What’s in 8-point type, 100 years old and selling faster than tickets to a Justin Bieber concert? ‘The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1′, surprise, surprise.”

MarkTwain pistol

Along with the cavalcade of attention comes inevitable backlash, too. Slate runs a story about the “brilliant brand management behind the handling of this autobiography,” a critical look at what they define as UC Press and the Mark Twain Papers trying to market an old story.

On November 7th, the Autobiography enters the New York Times Best Sellers nonfiction list at #2, where it will remain for 19 weeks.

Throughout November and well into early 2011, review coverage is unprecedented. Adam Gopnik pens an extensive review essay for The New Yorker. Time magazine dedicates a three page-feature to the book. Playboy magazine runs an exclusive excerpt from forthcoming Vol. 2 in their holiday issue. Garrison Keillor writes the front-page, lead review for the New York Times Book Review. The Wall Street Journal also prints a full-page feature review, and long essays run in the London Review of Books, New York Review of Books, to name but a few. Most major newspapers in the UK run not one, but numerous stories about the book; The Guardian, alone, runs a half-dozen articles. The response is global.

Over the course of the promotional campaign, the Mark Twain Papers editorial team will be interviewed on PBS’ Newshour, NPR’s Fresh Air and Morning Edition, The Diane Rehm Show, BBC World Service, profiled on CBS News Sunday Morning, and satirized in a skit on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

Journalists even produced feel-good stories about Thomson-Shore, the book’s small printer in Michigan which was able to hire back (previously laid-off) staff and find bigger-than-usual trucks to transport stock to warehouses, as upwards of 30,000 copies weekly were produced to meet consumer demand.

Printer Twain

To date, the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 has sold approximately 450,000 copies: a hugely impressive number for any publishing enterprise, in particular a university press. One would imagine that Mark Twain would have been amazed and wittily confounded by the publishing event frenzy that occurred 100 years after his death, a testament to the enduring relevance of his writings and way of thinking in the 21st century.

Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 complete the Autobiography and are available now.

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 2: The Story Behind the Cover

By Harriet E. Smith, Associate Editor, Mark Twain Project


Samuel L. Clemens, 1851 or 1852. Reproduced from a print in the Mark Twain Papers, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Mark Twain (Sam Clemens) was only sixteen or seventeen years old when this photo was taken, in 1851 or 1852. At that time he had just completed his apprenticeship as a typesetter and was working for his brother’s newspaper, the Hannibal Missouri Courier. It was in that paper that he published his first known attempt at humorous writing. Entitled “A Gallant Fireman,” it pokes fun at the “printer’s devil” on the staff, whose tasks included mixing tubs of ink and fetching type.

At the fire, on Thursday morning, we were apprehensive of our own safety, (being only one door from the building on fire) and commenced arranging our material in order to remove them in case of necessity. Our gallant devil, seeing us somewhat excited, concluded he would perform a noble deed, and immediately gathered the broom, an old mallet, the wash-pan and a dirty towel, and in a fit of patriotic excitement, rushed out of the office and deposited his precious burden some ten squares off, out of danger. Being of a snailish disposition, even in his quickest moments, the fire had been extinguished during his absence. He returned in the course of an hour, nearly out of breath, and thinking he had immortalized himself, threw his giant frame in a tragic attitude, and explained, with an eloquent expression: “If that thar fire hadn’t bin put out, that’d a’ bin the greatest confirmation of the age!”

In September 1852 Clemens’s brother left him in charge of the newspaper while he traveled to Tennessee on family business. Sam published an article—illustrated with a woodcut—ridiculing a writer on a rival newspaper. The victim retaliated with his own attack, calling Clemens a “blackguard,” and a journalistic feud ensued. When Clemens’s brother returned, he brought an end to the scuffle by claiming that the joke, although “rather rough,” had been “perpetrated in a spirit of fun.” This early work demonstrates Clemens’s penchant for humorous mischief that would characterize the more mature writer, whose extraordinary gift for satire brought him international fame.

In case you missed it, read the story behind the cover of Volume 3.

National Cat Day with Mark Twain

The reports on Mark Twain’s love of cats are not an exaggeration.

frontispiece_AMTv2_kitten copy
Samuel L. Clemens with kitten. Tuxedo Park, New York, 1907. Courtesy of the Mark Twain Papers, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

He had, count them, at least 32 cats. Though it is worth noting his self-proclaimed genius practice of renting cats:

Many persons would like to have the society of cats during the summer vacation in the country, but they deny themselves this pleasure because they think they must either take the cats along when they return to the city, where they would be a trouble and an incumbrance, or leave them in the country, houseless and homeless. These people have no ingenuity, no invention, no wisdom; or it would occur to them to do as I do: rent cats by the month for the summer, and return them to their good homes at the end of it. Early last May I rented a kitten of a farmer’s wife, by the month; then i got a discount by taking three. They have been good company for about five months now, and are still kittens—at least they have not grown much, and to all intents and purposes are still kittens, and as full of romping energy and enthusiasm as they were in the beginning. This is remarkable. I am an expert in cats, but I have not seen a kitten keep its kittenhood nearly so long before.

(from the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2)

Perhaps it was really Mark Twain, and not the Taiwanese and Japanese, behind the ‘cat café’ concept?

And, it should come as no surprise that he came up with clever and amusing names for his cats. These included Sackcloth and Ashes, Billiards, Blatherskite, Satan and her kitten, Sin, and Soapy Sall, to name a few.

Sour Mash was a favorite, and Twain wrote the following on her:

I believe I have never seen such intelligent cats as these before. They are full of the nicest discriminations. When I read German aloud they weep; you can see the tears run down. It shows what pathos there is in the German tongue. I had not noticed, before, that all German is pathetic, no matter what the subject is nor how it is treated. It was these humble observers that brought the knowledge to me. I have tried all kinds of German on these cats; romance, poetry, philosophy, theology, market reports; and the result has always been the same—the cats sob, and let the tears run down, which shows that all German is pathetic. French is not a familiar tongue to me, and the pronunciation is difficult, and comes out of me incumbered with a Missouri accent; but the cats like it, and when I make impassioned speeches in that language they sit in a row and put up their paws, palm to palm, and frantically give thanks. Hardly any cats are affected by music, but these are; when I sing they go reverently away, showing how deeply they feel it. Sour Mash never cared for these things. She had many noble and engaging qualities, but at bottom she was not refined, and cared little or nothing for theology and the arts.

(from the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2)

Twain’s life was filled with cats and all the things that come with them. The Autobiography brims with wonderful stories about them—from cat parades to baskets of kittens in the front hall—and most of all, his deep admiration and affection for them.

Happy National Cat Day! We feel Mark Twain certainly would have been a fan.

Slideshow images are of Samuel L. Clemens and kittens at Stormfield. Redding, Connecticut, 1908. Courtesy of the Mark Twain Papers, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

For further reading, see also: Mark Twain’s Book of Animals

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 3: The Story Behind the Cover

Choosing a book’s cover image is always an exciting process, but it can also prove difficult, particularly when you have such a treasure trove of images to choose from, as we do for Mark Twain.

When the image for the cover of Volume 3 of the Autobiography was settled upon, the editors of the Mark Twain Project also provided the backstory.

V3_SLC 1909 Bain 00651 full 600 001       9780520279940_Twain_V3

Samuel L. Clemens, aged 74, photographed on arrival in New York after a visit to Bermuda, 20 December 1909.
Photograph by the Bain News Service. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The photograph of Clemens was taken by a photographer from the Bain News Service on December 20, 1909, when Clemens’s ship arrived in New York after a visit to Bermuda, where he stayed with the Allen family. He was traveling with his friend and future biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine.

Below is a letter of thanks Clemens wrote on shipboard to Marion Schuyler Allen, his hostess in Bermuda, in which he refers to Paine’s seasickness and his own angina pains:

To Marion Schuyler Allen
19 December 1909 • R.M.S. Bermudian en route from Hamilton, Bermuda, to New York, N.Y.
(MS: BmuHA, UCCL 11779)

                                                                                                                                                                                         On board, Sunday noon.
Dear Mrs. Allen:
I don’t know how to thank you & Mr. Allen enough for the perfectly charming time you have given me. I have never had a lovelier time, & I can’t get over being sorry that it had to come to an end.

This is not a comfortable voyage. We plunged into heavy seas before the waving handkerchiefs & the flag were were an hour out of sight, & nine-tenths of the passengers were abed before dinner time. Paine succumbed early, & got extravagantly seasick, & that other pain (the one in my breast) kept me entertained until 3 this morning. There is still enough sea to make writing difficult.

Jean has been having an adventure, & I send you her letter. You needn’t return it. Think of that excited & innocent Frenchman ordering that well-trained & obedient dog to lie down & keep still when he particularly wanted him to get up & ’tend to business! A very good dog. As soon as Jean said “Los!” (Go! fly! rush!) he reinstated his injured reputation.

I wish I was back in that hospitable Bay House. What a contrast its comfort is to the dismal ship!

With love to you all,
Affectionately yours
SL. Clemens

Mrs. Wm. Allen | Bay House | Hamilton | Bermuda [postmarked:] ɴᴇᴡ ʏᴏʀᴋ ɴ.ʏ. sᴛᴀ.ᴅ ᴅᴇᴄ 20 9 – ᴘᴍ 1909

Clemens was looking forward to his Christmas at home with his daughter Jean, who loved the holiday and apparently was already at work buying presents and making preparations. Jean died (of heart failure during an epileptic seizure) on Christmas eve, December 24, 1909, before her decorated tree could be discovered, the holiday celebrated, and the presents distributed. Clemens’s despair at her death brought an end to the autobiography, with “Closing Words of My Autobiography,” which begins: “Jean is dead! And so this Autobiography closes here. . . .”

After another trip to Bermuda, and worsening angina, Clemens died at home in Redding, Connecticut, on April 21, 1910, just four months after this photograph was taken.

This image is essentially an early paparazzi shot—press were waiting for him as he disembarked from the ship—and while he complied with the journalist’s request to take a photo, the pain and exhaustion from the journey is etched into his face and visible in his eyes. From this point on, his health would quickly worsen, so it is one of the last images we have.

Stay tuned for the stories behind the covers of Volume 1 and Volume 2.

UC Press authors participate in this month’s Litquake Festival

Once again, UC Press is a proud sponsor of Litquake, the literary festival that runs October 9-17 in venues throughout San Francisco, Marin, and the East Bay. The event calendar offers an impressive bounty, including notable events featuring UC Press authors, detailed below. For event logistics, and the full calendar, check out the Litquake website. Some events are free and some are ticketed.

Hope to see you!


Mark Twain Project editor Ben Griffin (Autobiography of Mark Twain) joins a cast of writers and performers to discuss “Foolishness, Stupidity, and Vice,” October 10, 8pm.

Event Description: Noted playwright and Algonquin Round Table member George S. Kaufman is said to have once uttered, “Satire is what closes on Saturday night.” Come see us prove him wrong, on our opening night Saturday, with this star-studded lineup of satirical writers, artists, and performers. Doors open at 7 pm, and in the words of Mark Twain, “the trouble begins at 8.”


On October 11, join us for a day-long celebration of food and literature, “Eat, Drink, and Be Literary,” which will be held at Z-Space (450 Florida Avenue), San Francisco. Dan Warrick, of our second edition of The Way to Make Wine, will be set up in the entrance, pouring his own wine and signing books.


Also appearing at this event: On October 11, noon, Inside the California Food Revolution author Joyce Goldstein is part of a panel discussion on “The Growth and Evolution of the Bay Area Artisanal Food Movement.” This will be followed by a book signing at 12:45pm.

Event Description: Join six leaders in the Bay Area culinary world—a master chef, cheese maker, chocolatier, charcutier, bread baker, and food purveyor—to explore the origins and evolution of the artisanal food movement. Followed by audience Q&A.


Authors Judith Lowry (Gardening with a Wild Heart) and Jonah Raskin (Field Days: A Year of Farming, Eating, and Drinking Wine in California) join other gardeners and gatherers, October 11, 4pm, for “What is Genius Loci?”


Event Description: And how does it affect foragers, gatherers, and gleaners? Six savvy, sexy veterans of field, forest, and sea come together for a delicious conversation about feral foods in the era of crazy weather, rainless days and nights, and the unimpeded civilized craving for wild nettles, mushrooms, sea weeds, and much more. Followed by audience Q&A.


In the East Bay, at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, Tom Turner, of our new David Brower book, joins others for “Wilderness Where You Find It,” October 11, 1pm.

Event Description: Wilderness is personal, political, historic, and threatened. This panel of original thinkers discusses what we talk about when we talk about wilderness, and how they connect with the wild in original and accessible ways.


And on October 16, 7pm, Jason De León, author of Land of Open Graves, gathers with other writers and performers for “Our Bookstores – United – Will Never Be Defeated,” at the Make-Out Room.

Event Description: San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguía calls the 24th Street Corridor/Calle 24 “Bookstore Row,” where the coalition of stores—Adobe Books, Alley Cat Books, and Modern Times Bookstore Collective—all deliver unique attributes to a neighborhood already rich in history and culture. Yet given the changes in the Mission and citywide, independent booksellers, authors, and artists remain besieged by displacement. Tonight we celebrate what bookstores bring to our neighborhoods. Hosted by Alejandro Murguía, with Denise Sullivan and Kate Rosenberger. Music by Cambiowashere, Penelope Houston, Christine Shields, and Bob Forrest. Proceeds to benefit United Booksellers and Litquake.

Banned Books Week: United States v Mark Twain

As part of our mission to advance knowledge and drive change in our world, we at UC Press are excited to recognize Banned Books Week, a celebration of intellectual freedom and the freedom to read all books. And, of course, it would be a challenge to recognize banned books without taking a look at one of the most challenged books of all time– The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.


Over 100 years after Mark Twain’s death, Huck Finn is still as controversial as ever. Benjamin Griffin, one of the editors of Mark Twain’s autobiography, addresses the book’s 130-year history of banning in an article for BookPage. Check out the full interview here.

“Huckleberry Finn was “banned” several times in Mark Twain’s lifetime—always by librarians. In 1885, when the book was new, the public library in Concord, Massachusetts, withdrew it, citing the characters’ “low grade of morality” and “irreverence.” Huck lies, talks dialect, is friends with a black man, steals and fails to return stolen property (the black man).

Mark Twain’s response to the ban was immediate. He told his publisher: “That will sell 25,000 copies for us, sure.” The commercial blessings of banning, in this country, are well known. Howard Hughes campaigned to ban his own film, The Outlaw, in order to get it released.”


“Back in 1885, the book’s detractors feared that children would become too comfortable with Huck: with his “low” company—and, I suspect, with Jim’s. Mark Twain’s response to this criticism, in his Autobiography, was that children were already routinely damaged by a book the library kept on open shelves—the Bible:

“The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean; I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old.”

It was only right, he said, for librarians to escort Huck and Tom out of that book’s “questionable company.”

For more Mark Twain, see our Twain list, and the upcoming final volume of Twain’s autobiography— releasing worldwide next month.