If you are interested in life stories, there’s something special just off the presses – Volume I of The Autobiography of Mark Twain.
We’ve had to wait one hundred years since his death. Twain ordered it. He didn’t want to be inhibited by a concern with offending anyone. The trustees of his estate haven’t completely respected Twain’s wishes. Several segments of the autobiography have appeared in print. However, as Guardian reviewer Tim Adams put it, “Never before has the book been published as Twain wished it, though – in all its fragmentary and convoluted glory.” Volumes 2 and 3 will appear within the next few years.
If you are concerned with how long it’s taking to get your own book done, take heart. Twain began his Autobiography when he was 42 years old and worked on it in a rather desultory fashion for the next three decades. He ultimately settled on what he described as “The Final (and Right) Plan” to get the book finished. Concerned that his real story was the interior monologue going on in his own head, Twain hired a secretary to walk around with him transcribing his thoughts.
How true to America’s greatest writer was the result? Twain suggests that his readers keep in mind his mother’s description of him as a boy, "I discount him thirty per cent for embroidery, and what is left is perfect and priceless truth without a flaw in it anywhere."
I am certainly looking forward to reading it. After all, how often do we get the chance to see a new work by an author like Mark Twain who has been dead for a hundred years?
Click here to read Tim Adams review in the Guardian online.