Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain: A Biography

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Overview

Mark Twain, the American comic genius who portrayed, named, and in part exemplified America's "Gilded Age," comes alive — a presence felt, an artist understood — in Justin Kaplan's extraordinary biography.

With brilliant immediacy, Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain brings to life a towering literary figure whose dual persona symbolized the emerging American conflict between down-to-earth morality and freewheeling ambition. As Mark Twain, he was the Mississippi riverboat pilot, the ...

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Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain: A Biography

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Overview

Mark Twain, the American comic genius who portrayed, named, and in part exemplified America's "Gilded Age," comes alive — a presence felt, an artist understood — in Justin Kaplan's extraordinary biography.

With brilliant immediacy, Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain brings to life a towering literary figure whose dual persona symbolized the emerging American conflict between down-to-earth morality and freewheeling ambition. As Mark Twain, he was the Mississippi riverboat pilot, the satirist with a fiery hatred of pretension, and the author of such classics as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. As Mr. Clemens, he was the star who married an heiress, built a palatial estate, threw away fortunes on harebrained financial schemes, and lived the extravagant life that Mark Twain despised. Kaplan effectively portrays the triumphant-tragic man whose achievements and failures, laughter and anger, reflect a crucial generation in our past as well as his own dark, divided, and remarkably contemporary spirit.

The book begins as the thirty-one-year-old Mark Twain, carrying bottled within himself the experience of his boyhood in Hannibal and his coming-of-age on the Mississippi and on Nevada's silver-rush frontier, quits San Francisco and the old elemental America of the open spaces. He is heading east for the burgeoning new urban America of commerce, invention, finance, and status, where he is destined to marry well, hobnob with the rich and influential, throw away fortunes on tragically alluring schemes...and produce literary works that fulfill and go beyond the vocation he has already acknowledged: "to excite the laughter of God's creatures."

He is heard, seen, made palpable. The texture of his marriage with Olivia Langdon, the protean presence of Mark Twain on the lecture platform, his friendships and enmities — virtually all his closest relationships partook of both — spring to life. His writing and publishing experience is organically re-created. His endurance in the face of personal tragedy, his unrivaled charm, his compulsion to quarrel, his humility and his vanity are evoked and felt. His wit rings through the book.

"Honest poverty is a gem that even a King might be proud to call his own, but I wish to sell out. I have sported that kind of jewelry long enough." Thus the young Mark Twain, on the eve of world fame, spoke his disgust at a money-centered society in that blatantly philistine voice that he chose for his most savage satirical declarations. But all his life — racked by his own ambivalences — he was to embrace the values of that society.

Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain brilliantly conveys this towering literary figure who was himself a symbol of the peculiarly American conflict between moral scrutiny and the drive to succeed. Mr. Clemens lived the Gilded Life that Mark Twain despised. The merging and fragmenting of these and other identities, as the biography unfolds, results in a magnificent projection of the whole man; the great comic spirit; and the exuberant, tragic human being, who, his friend William Dean Howells said, was "sole, incomparable, the Lincoln of our literature."

"...Twain lives in these pages as full and alive as any man could." --New York Times

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Howard Mumford Jones The richest, most subtle, and best-sustained analysis of Mark Twain anywhere to be found....This is a great book, one of the greatest analyses of an American personality.

Maxwell Geismar Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain is bold and discerning in its treatment of the central conflicts of that primitive genius, Mark Twain. It is illuminating to me in the discussion of complex and puzzling aspects of a dark and doubled personality.

Henry Nash Smith Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain is sure to remain for a long time the standard book about an extraordinary, complex personality and a career that touched almost every aspect of American culture in the later nineteenth century.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Kaplan's book will undoubtedly be the portrait of Mark Twain for this generation.

John Kenneth Galbraith Even the best scholars, reading this book, will find themselves dangerously close to unqualified praise....Not only does Kaplan write economically and lucidly but he has a beautiful ear for Mark Twain's language, invention, and comedy.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671748074
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 12/15/1991
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 336,020
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.16 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Justin Kaplan is the author of Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, and of Walt Whitman: A Life, which won the American Book Award. He is a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife, novelist Anne Bernays.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 10, 2011

    A complete mess- don't both with it

    This is a complete mess- somehow in the scanning of the book, something went wrong and there's no cover, no title page, incomplete paragraphs, some ramblings having to do with Socrates and I think (as far as I can tell, nothing on Twain.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2012

    Couldn't see print

    Type too small to read, needs to be expanded

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2011

    Bogus book

    All I get when I open this are 4 pages of crap. Bad text. 1 poorly scanned picture. AND IT WON'T DELETE FROM MY NOOK-FOR-ANDROID!! I hope I'm wrong but I suspect this is an attempt at malware.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 13, 2011

    Huh?

    Is this really a four page unreadable book? Either it is, or I didn't get it downloaded correctly!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews

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