Friday, December 24, 2010

Mark Twain's Autobiography

Mark Twain's 743-page autobiography hit bookshelves Nov. 15, and now sits high atop the New York Times' best-seller list for hardcover non-fiction at No. 3, leaving Bill O'Reilly and Sarah Palin in the dust. The Library’s 12 copies are all checked out with holds, with more on order.

The director of the Mark Twain Project said the book is in the structure the author himself wanted. In 1904, Mark Twain wrote that he had "hit upon the right way to do an Autobiography." Instead of writing down his autobiography, Twain wanted to tell stories to another human being. And instead of telling his life story in chronological order, Twain wanted to talk about what interested him at that moment — and to allow himself to change the subject when his interest waned. It’s not a “tell all” memoir that is so popular today. Three months into the dictations, he says, "I have thought of 1,500 or 2,000 incidents in my life which I am ashamed of, but I have not gotten one of them to consent to go on paper yet." Versions of the autobiography have appeared over the years in newspapers and in print, but this is the first time it has been left in the order Twain dictated and with the honesty requiring Twain’s 100 year embargo. This first volume of the autobiography meanders through his thoughts on politics and religion, success and failure, friends and enemies. He grappled with the same things we continue to grapple with today.

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