Critical Companion to Mark Twain: The Literary Reference to His Life and Work

Critical Companion to Mark Twain: The Literary Reference to His Life and Work

by R. Kent Rasmussen

Until now, tracking down information on Mark Twain's complex life and numerous works was a time-consuming and arduous process. No longer, now that R. Kent Rasmussen has undertaken the herculean task of writing and compiling Mark Twin A to Z-- a comp-rehensive, single-volume reference to this great American writer's live and times.  See more details below


Until now, tracking down information on Mark Twain's complex life and numerous works was a time-consuming and arduous process. No longer, now that R. Kent Rasmussen has undertaken the herculean task of writing and compiling Mark Twin A to Z-- a comp-rehensive, single-volume reference to this great American writer's live and times.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Amazingly a one-man work, this unobtrusively cross-referenced encyclopedia of Twainiana focuses not on the whys and hows but rather on the myriad whos, whats, and whens of Twain's life. From three lines to several pages, each detail-packed entry is a comprehensive piece of a prodigious life. Readers who want to know the origin of the term blatherskite (and precisely where Twain uses it in his fiction) or need a synopsis of every chapter in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (and its background and publication history) will find it here. Twain's literary characters, every fiction large and small, childhood friends in Hannibal, adult business associates, riverboats Twain piloted, inventions he tinkered with-all are covered. A fascinating and unique volume recommended for every library with a Twain collection. [The publisher also offers other "A to Z" encyclopedias on literary figures, most recently James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.-Ed.]-Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, Mo.
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up-This hearty reworking of Mark Twain A to Z(Facts On File, 1995) presents considerable revisions and modern features. It divides previous alphabetical entries and other information into four clearly labeled sections ("Biography" and "Works A-Z" in volume one, and "Related People, Places, and Topics" and "Appendices" in volume two) for easier access. Valuable extras include a biography section, more than 350 added A-Z entries, 33 original critical essays by literary scholars, an updated bibliography, and improved cross-referencing. The significantly expanded appendixes include additions to the chronology and suggested readings, while "Mediagraphy," "Mark Twain Sites on the World Wide Web," "A Mark Twain Calendar of Days," "Novels about Mark Twain," and "Filmography" are worthy new entries. Other enhancements include more black-and-white maps and lesser-known illustrations, and a handy glossary. Although similar in scope, Gregg Camfield's The Oxford Companion to Mark Twain(2003) and J. R. LeMaster and James D. Wilson's The Mark Twain Encyclopedia(Garland, 1993) do not provide such wide-ranging information or the accessibility of Rasmussen's volumes.-Cara Webster, Cumberland University Vise Library, Lebanon, TN

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Zom Zoms
As the excitement generated by the recent publication of a previously unknown episode written for "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" demonstrates, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) continues to enjoy a wide and devoted audience. The proliferation of Twain sources on the Internet further reflects the intensity of contemporary scholarly and popular interest in this colorful, intriguing, and enigmatic writer Obviously a labor of love (Rasmussen indicates that he has read each of Twain's works at least four times), this compilation covers Twain's life and publications in painstaking detail, beginning with the steamboat "A.B. Chambers", which Twain once piloted, and ending with the French novelist Emile Zola, on whom Twain penned a critical essay. Rasmussen, formerly an associate editor of the Marcus Garvey papers at UCLA, notes that his intention is to provide factual information rather than analysis and interpretation. Consequently, the nearly 1,300 entries are devoted primarily to proper names relating to Twain, including titles of all of his major and many of his minor works; characters and fictional locales; his family, friends, and associates; places he lived or visited; publishers and illustrators of his works; and periodicals in which he published. Only a small percentage of entries is more general in nature, such as those pertaining to motifs in Twain's works ("Dueling", "Haunted Houses"), literary devices ("Frame-Story", "Soliloquy"), or subjects that had a significant impact on Twain's life ("Cholera", "Steamboats"). The most extensive entries are those devoted to Twain's more widely read works. Each of these provides an introduction to the work (including a word count), a chapter-by-chapter synopsis, and a publication history. Cross-references within entries guide users to other pertinent articles Approximately 130 black-and-white illustrations, including photographs of Twain and illustrations from his works, appear near relevant entries throughout the text. Among other useful features are a full-page map of the U.S. that reflects the places where Twain lived and traveled, an extensive chronological chart that juxtaposes personal and professional details about each year of Twain's life with major historical and literary events, and bibliographies of first editions of Twain's works and selected secondary sources The 21-page index is remarkable for its degree of detail and its precision. Not only does it include the customary entries for titles, names, and subjects, but it also provides access to a variety of collective categories. For example, the heading "trial scenes" lists characters involved in such scenes and works in which they appear, while the heading "unfinished works" lists all titles that fall into that category. This is a particularly valuable feature since the entry headers in the encyclopedia itself are so specific In his introduction, Rasmussen observes that a single reference book about Mark Twain "cannot encompass everything about him that one might wish to know." Ostensibly, he is explaining any omissions in his own work, but he could also be rationalizing its publication so soon after the well-received "Mark Twain Encyclopedia" ["RBB" O 15 93]. While there is considerable overlap between the two works, each has its own unique features and strengths. Containing fewer entries, but offering a more integrated approach, the "MTE" is particularly valuable for its inclusion of numerous topical essays that address such matters as Twain's literary style, his political and social views, and recurrent themes in his works. On the other hand, "Mark Twain AZ" provides more thorough coverage of specific works and of both fictional and real people and places. Large libraries will want both volumes, but smaller libraries may need to choose which approach would better serve the needs of their users.
The arrangement of entries in an alphabetic rather than topic- oriented format is clumsy, but this reference contains a great deal of information related to Twain's life and work in clearly written brief essays. The entries include written works--with synopses and summaries of publishing history; analytical discussions of characters; and identification of key people, places, and events in Twain's business, literary, and personal life. A chronology in tabular form displays year-by-year activities with regard to residence and travel, personal and business affairs, literary output, family & friends, and literary and historical events. Includes some b&w illustrations. 8.75x11.25" Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

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Product Details

Facts on File, Incorporated
Publication date:
Critical Companion Series
Edition description:
2 Volume Set
Product dimensions:
7.50(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

R. Kent Rasmussen is a former associate editor of the Marcus Garvey Papers at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he earned a Ph.D. in History. He is the author of several acclaimed reference books on Africa, and editor of Mark Twain's Book for Bad Boys and Girls.

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