When he died in 1910, Samuel Langhorne Clemens - better known by the nom de plume Mark Twain - left behind the largest trove of literary papers of any nineteenth-century American author. Included were letters diaries, travelogues, a huge autobiography, notebooks, literary manuscripts, "easily half a million pages."
Drawn from this cornucopia of material, Who Is Mark Twain? is a new collection of 24 previously unpublished pieces. It contains some materials which end without resolution, and others which give the appearance (in reading) of being early drafts. Nevertheless, the collection on the whole is vintage Twain: funny, irreverent, caustic, and acerbic. Acerbic, that is, to the point where Twain believed that they could not be published while he himself lived. Take, as an example, extended excerpts from the first paragraph of the chapter entitled "The Privilege of the Grave:"
"Its occupant has one privilege which is not exercised by any living person: free speech. The living man is not really without this privilege - strictly speaking - but as he possesses it merely as an empty formality, and knows better than to make use of it, it cannot be seriously regarded as an actual possession. As an active privilege, it ranks with the privilege of committing murder: we may exercise it if we are willing to take the consequences. Murder is forbidden both in form and in fact; free speech is granted in form but forbidden in fact... Murder is sometimes punished, free speech always - when committed. Which is seldom... An unpopular opinion concerning politics or religion lies concealed in the *** of every man... There is not one individual - including the reader and myself - who is not the possessor of dear and cherished unpopular convictions which common wisdom forbids him to utter."
Anyone who has read "Letters From the Earth" (also published posthumously) will recognize the same writer in the chapter "Conversations With Satan," and "The Missionary in World Politics." Those who know that Twain was a newspaperman at one time in his life (writing for a Keokuk, Iowa newspaper under the name Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass) will enjoy the irony of "The Force of 'Suggestion.'" There is something here for everyone, always entertaining, very well written, and backed by forceful (if not always endearing) thought.
I loved it!
Other books by Mark Twain in the EVPL collections
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