What I Am Reading

Jan 24 2011 Published by under What I'm Reading

Reading is a major joy of air travel. For my short trip last weekend, I started The Autobiography of Mark Twain, a hot new read that sold out its initial printing.


This is not a celebrity bio.

First and foremost, this book is an academic endeavor. Twain started his autobiography over and over, with multiple false starts, leaving a trail of some published works and others locked away for a century. In addition, each dictated session had multiple transcription records, brought together into the final products.

The first 7% of the book consists of academic notes on the process used to construct it, including 140+ footnotes from original sources. Next comes the previously published works; I have not completed my reading here yet. Then comes the bulk of the work, dictated long ago but never published at the author's wish.

Twain felt he would be more honest, about himself and others, if guaranteed a period of time before his thoughts became public. Ultimately, he concluded that this worked for his thoughts on others, but he was still unable to tell the unvarnished truth about himself.

My favorite part so far, from one of the publishers negotiating the agreement:

The agreement would, of course, provide for publication in whatever modes should then be prevalent, that is, by printing as at present, or by use of phonographic cylinders, or by electrical method, or by any other mode which may then be in use, any number of which would doubtless occur to his vivid imagination, and would form an interesting clause in the agreement.

Did someone from the 21st century time-travel and tell them about ebooks? Perhaps that's where Twain got the idea for A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court!

So far the book has proven to be interesting and entertaining, as one would expect from Twain. I can't wait till I get to the part he felt could not publish while alive!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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