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Fifteen minutes ago I finished reading Volume One of the newly published "Autobiography of Mark Twain". It is no more possible to adequately describe this massive book as to attempt to fully capture the full, intricate realities of a vast range of wild mountains.
Twain tried for many years to write his autobiography, but time and again his efforts ground to a halt and were abandoned, although fragments were kept for eventual use (and presented as part of this Volume One). It was not until Twain fixed upon the mode of orally dictating his autobiography that he found a method that really worked for him and allowed him to complete the project to his own satisfaction. The first portion of these 1906 dictations (plus explanatory editorial notes) form the heart of the present volume (two more volumes will eventually be released to complete the "Autobiography"). The result certainly does not follow a standard autobiographical approach (which Twain characterizes as a "plan that starts you at the cradle and drives you straight for the grave, with no side-excursions permitted on the way. Whereas the side-excursions are the life of our life-voyage, and should be, also, of its history.") The "Autobiography" as dictated instead is all side-excursion, almost stream of consciousness. Twain's intent was that it not be published in unexpurgated form until a hundred years after his death, leaving him free to say whatever he wished about whomever he wished to speak. Portions of it have indeed been published from time to time, in a highly edited form bearing little resemblance to what Twain intended as the true "Autobiography".
In approaching the "Autobiography" the reader should not expect a conventional, chronologically arranged, continuous narrative in the traditional style. Twain strove intentionally, and successfully, to avoid that, instead reaching for an entirely novel style suitable for avoiding what he considered to be the usual "lying" (perhaps especially lying to oneself) found in standard autobiographies. The present volume is presented in four distinct parts: First is a lengthy explanatory section from the editors, providing the background for the "Autobiography" and explaining what Twain was aiming for; this section is probably necessary for better appreciating what Twain eventually achieved, but also may not be the best place to begin browsing. Second are the fragments of autobiographical material Twain wrote over the last few decades of the 19th century, fragments left over from his failed attempts to create an autobiography but retained by him as containing enough material and honesty to satisfy his desires. Third is the real heart of the book: oral dictations that left Twain free to dart and drift wherever his thoughts led him, free of any rigid structure; this section is most open to casual browsing. And fourth are lengthy notes and comments from the editors on Twain's text and dictations, correcting factual errors and expanding upon details.
Reading the dictations is as near as one could hope to be sitting in a room with Twain, listening to him ramble along, mixing trivial events of forty or sixty years before with headlines from today's newspaper -- an effect that Twain was deliberately creating -- and dizzyingly flipping the pages of the calendar back and forth. Imagine Twain sitting there with a cigar and perhaps a glass of Scotch whiskey. Imagi
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Posted February 17, 2013
The description claimed this book to be the new autobiography just recently published but in reality it is one from 1924. If I could, I'd send it back.
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Posted April 16, 2012
This is NOT the modern translation! This page says the publication date is 2012. The title page of the book says 1924!
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Posted May 16, 2012
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