Autobiography of Mark Twain

St. Valentine gave me the Autobiography of Mark Twain the other day. Volume 1, of course. I intend to get through it in time for when Volume 2 is issued. Wish me luck and fair winds.

Update February 20, 2011 – Only reading in snippets when moments allow, I can report that I have thus far reached page 29 in the Introduction. So far it’s been a bit tedious, but I respect the scholarship that has gone into compiling this work. I expect, when I get to the actual writing by Twain, that the real fireworks will begin.

Update February 27, 2011 – Somehow I’ve managed to read 118 pages of the actual autobiography. I am fully one quarter of the way through the autobiography. (A third of the book itself is endnotes and index.) I’m enjoying the voice Twain uses, though it seems that all of the “startling revelations” he had to surpress for a century before they dare be published are merely the libelous statements he couldn’t say when his targets were still alive. Perhaps the remaining three quarters of the book will have meatier revelations.

Update March 13, 2011 – Apologies for not updating last Sunday, but I was out of town and didn’t have the book in hand to check how far I had read. (It was page 145.) I am now up to page 166, but I’m also deep in Dostoyevsky for the book discussion group I’m in. (Some of his gloomy short stories now. We’re reading various works by him and others to build toward Crime and Punishment sometime in 2012.) Anyway, I haven’t had the opportunity to read Twain much in the last week. Perhaps I’ll have a better number to report next Sunday.

Update March 20, 2011 – Now up to page 221. Quite a surge in the last week. Still, I guess I hadn’t paid attention to the table of contents because I was surprised when I reached page 200 and found I was only beginning the actual autobiography. Who knew?

Update March 27, 2011 – Slow week for me. I’m only up to page 250, but this week’s reading includes a long passage on Twain’s stay in the Italian Villa di Quarto, and I think it was this writing for which the word “libel” was created. Amazing stuff.

Update April 2, 2011 – I’m not up to page 283, which isn’t much progress overall, but the selections are more or less self-contained snippets, so my kind of  sporadic reading works. This update is a day early since I won’t get a chance to read any more of the book by tomorrow, and I’m not even going to be plugged in until the end of tomorrow.

Update April 10, 2011 – I surged to page 315 this week. I’m in the middle of a long narrative about a woman being thrown out of the White House, a failed speech at an important birthday party, the death of an old friend, and several other things, all of which keep getting connected. There are flashes of humor, and I like the way he keeps bringing the long narrative around to his point(s), but much of it is such old, old news that I’m sure I missing more than half of his effect.

Update April 17, 2011 – Zip! I didn’t get a single page read in this week. This was partly because I had picked up another novel from the library and was hurrying through it so I would have it finished before I took off for a weekend of travel. The weekend of travel also limited my reading time. So I hope to do better this week.

Update May 1, 2011 – Happy May Day to you all! Sorry I didn’t provide an update last week; I probably had nothing to report. Anyway, I’m now up to page 334. Twain continues to deliver his dry, droll narrative, punctuating it at the end with some bon mot or observation or ironic phrase that sums it all up and shows you what he was leading to with his sometimes tedious narratives. Now that I have #2 Son married off, I hope to have more reading time in my life.

Update May 8, 2011 – Happy Mothers Day to you all! In the last week I’ve somehow managed to find enough time to read thirty pages. I’m now at page 363. Lately in this section Twain has been speaking affectionately about his wife and his daughter, and I’ve noticed that while he can savage others directly or through ironic jibes in his writing, he treats family members with utmost respect and love. It’s a very different side to the man’s writing.

Update May 15, 2011 – I’ve managed to reach page 389 via my occasional dips into the book. I’m in the middle of an extended section where he brings in excerpts of the biography his own daughter had written about him. I continue to be amazed at how this man who can so easily savage others is so tender toward his own.

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2 Comments on “Autobiography of Mark Twain

  1. rachel Says:

    I would like to read that, too, but I don’t know when I will…

  2. Paul Says:

    I don’t think it would fit in your apartment.

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