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“Named after a constellation, Orion Clemens was his parents’ firstborn, but not the family star. That was the fate of his brother Samuel, 10 years younger, better known as Mark Twain. Philip Fanning unravel[s] a twisted but tight fraternal bond. It’s a troubling story, punctuated by several ‘hypotheses’ about the brothers that Mr. Fanning admits other Twain scholars will find controversial.
“Among the questions, was Orion irrevocably scarred by witnessing his father’s autopsy in 1847 after suspicions of syphilis? Did a young, resentful Samuel in 1854 come close to shooting Orion? And was Samuel’s brush with suicide in 1866 directly linked to Orion’s thwarting of his financial hopes? Fanning isolates and unpacks these ‘conjectures’ like a detective story, assembling evidence from a range of sources and then blending them into the wider lives.” -- “Nota Bene,” Chronicle of Higher Education