文庫 – 1989/12
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It is not known exactly why Twain quit the militia. He defended his actions throughout the years by describing his confusion while enrolling and explained he was ignorant of the politics behind the war.
George Orwell expressed a very severe opinion about this behavior of Twain’s. “Mark Twain started by fighting, if he can be said to have fought, on the Southern side, and then changed his allegiance before the war was over. This kind of behavior is more excusable in a boy than in a man, whence the adjustment of the dates. It is also clear enough, however, that he changed sides because he saw that the North was going to win; and this tendency to side with the stronger whenever possible, to believe that might must be right, is apparent throughout his career.”
In this autobiography, Twain said nothing about this matter. What does it mean? You know, Mark Twain was very fond of talking about himself, often so much so that he even said what nobody wanted to hear. That such a man said nothing about this matter is very meaningful. One may be pretty sure that no matter what explanations he gave, there was a sense of shame or guilt in him.
Twain’s pessimism which occurred in his later years is said to have been occasioned by the deaths of two of his daughters and by the long illness and death in 1904 of his wife, and I do not deny it, but I am bound to think that the civil war matter had something to do with it.
This book aims to be the definitive edition by publishing everything that Mark dictated or wrote after 1905 in the order that it came into creation. Prior publications were much shorter as various editors organized what they thought was interesting, had his family's approval and was in some chronlogical sequence (Charles Neider did the best overall job of this fifty years ago). What the reader has here is Mark Twain's true speaking voice -- he is doing a monologue in your presence, going wherever his memory takes him.
Because it’s such a long autobiography, I’m sure the editors had a difficult time deciding when to end each volume. Volume One ends with a better sense of narrative completion than Volume Two, which ends on a more random note (I read each of these as they were published) Now that all three volumes are available, new readers won’t have to deal with the feeling of being left hanging. My only quibble with Volume Three is that I wish the Ashcroft-Lyon Papers had been inserted into the autobiography to correspond with the time they were written. As I was reading, I had wondered why there was such a huge gap in diary entries during the summer of 1909, which is explained in the introduction to the A-L Papers. I also wished that Twain’s final words were of his daughter Jean, rather than Ashcroft and Lyon. It’s a minor thing, but I thought I’d mention it.
I can’t understand the complaints from other reviewers that the writing was too long or too rambling. (stay away from Dickens!) Twain says at the very beginning that he isn’t going to do a “normal” autobiography. This is not a book to be read from cover to cover in one or two sittings. I read this book while reading other books over the course of several months. I would read two to four entries at a time and absorb what he said. I really got a feel of that era and I enjoyed the history as much as Twain’s own words. The reason why I say the reader should use two bookmarks is this: I kept one bookmark at Twain’s entries and the other bookmark at the descriptive notes in the back. I’d read one entry and then immediately read the corresponding notes. This gave me a better feel for the subject and who people were. It really enriched the reading experience.
I’m extremely impressed with the hard work that went into publishing these volumes and they do not disappoint. If you’re a fan of Mark Twain these books are totally worth it.
Author, critic and playwright William Dean Howells--and Twain's friend for more than four decades--referred to Twain as "the Lincoln of our literature." But that was only one facet of Twain's life. He was a journeyman printer, steamboat pilot, newspaper reporter, prospector, world traveler, platform lecturer, inventor, businessman, family man, and at the time of his death he was the most recognizable man on the planet.
For almost forty years, I taught "Huck Finn" to my high school students and read everything about Mark Twain that I could find, including the original edition of his autobiography as well as published collections of his letters and biographies by Justin Kaplan ("Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain) Ron Powers ("Mark Twain: A Life").
Just when you think you have learned everything about Twain, the University of California Press comes out with the definitive version of his autobiography. Vol. 1, which came out four years ago during the centennial year of Twain's death, shined a light in corners of Twain's life that had not yet been exposed. This second volume does more of the same.
This is not for the casual fan. (The would better be served by Powers' excellent biography mentioned earlier.) But if you want to know Twain on an intimate level, you will want nothing less than each installment of this sprawling autobiography. Much of this may be seen as ephemera, like Twain's commentary on a passage from Susy's Biography regarding how numerous the houseflies were at the Hartford home. To the delight of the children, Olivia placed a bounty on flies, and the children went so far as to recruit neighbor children to provide them with flies to collect the bounty. Through each of these hundreds of anecdotes we get a glimpse of this remarkable 19th century renaissance man. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED