Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain A Biography

ISBN-10: 0671748076

ISBN-13: 9780671748074

Edition: 1991

Authors: Justin Kaplan

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Description:

Mark Twain, the American comic genius who portrayed, named, and in part exemplified America's "Gilded Age," comes alive -- a presence felt, an artist understood -- in Justin Kaplan's extraordinary biography.With brilliant immediacy,Mr. Clemens and Mark Twainbrings to life a towering literary figure whose dual persona symbolized the emerging American conflict between down-to-earth morality and freewheeling ambition. As Mark Twain, he was the Mississippi riverboat pilot, the satirist with a fiery hatred of pretension, and the author of such classics asTom SawyerandHuckleberry Finn.As Mr. Clemens, he was the star who married an heiress, built a palatial estate, threw away fortunes on harebrained financial schemes, and lived the extravagant life that Mark Twain despised. Kaplan effectively portrays the triumphant-tragic man whose achievements and failures, laughter and anger, reflect a crucial generation in our past as well as his own dark, divided, and remarkably contemporary spirit.The book begins as the thirty-one-year-old Mark Twain, carrying bottled within himself the experience of his boyhood in Hannibal and his coming-of-age on the Mississippi and on Nevada's silver-rush frontier, quits San Francisco and the old elemental America of the open spaces. He is heading east for the burgeoning new urban America of commerce, invention, finance, and status, where he is destined to marry well, hobnob with the rich and influential, throw away fortunes on tragically alluring schemes...and produce literary works that fulfill and go beyond the vocation he has already acknowledged: "to excite thelaughterof God's creatures."He is heard, seen, made palpable. The texture of his marriage with Olivia Langdon, the protean presence of Mark Twain on the lecture platform, his friendships and enmities -- virtually all his closest relationships partook of both -- spring to life. His writing and publishing experience is organically re-created. His endurance in the face of personal tragedy, his unrivaled charm, his compulsion to quarrel, his humility and his vanity are evoked and felt. His wit rings through the book."Honest poverty is a gem that even a King might be proud to call his own, but I wish to sell out. I have sported that kind of jewelry long enough." Thus the young Mark Twain, on the eve of world fame, spoke his disgust at a money-centered society in that blatantly philistine voice that he chose for his most savage satirical declarations. But all his life -- racked by his own ambivalences -- he was to embrace the values of that society.Mr. Clemens and Mark Twainbrilliantly conveys this towering literary figure who was himself a symbol of the peculiarly American conflict between moral scrutiny and the drive to succeed. Mr. Clemens lived the Gilded Life that Mark Twain despised. The merging and fragmenting of these and other identities, as the biography unfolds, results in a magnificent projection of the whole man; the great comic spirit; and the exuberant, tragic human being, who, his friend William Dean Howells said, was "sole, incomparable, the Lincoln of our literature."
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Book details

List price: $18.00
Copyright year: 1991
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 12/15/1991
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 432
Size: 6.25" wide x 9.25" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 1.298
Language: English

Justin Kaplan was born in Manhattan, New York on September 5, 1925. He received a bachelor's degree in English from Harvard University, followed by graduate work in the field there, but he left before earning a doctorate to work as a freelance writer and book editor. His first book, Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1967 and a National Book Award. His other works include Lincoln Steffens: A Biography, When the Astors Owned New York: Blue Bloods and Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age, and Walt Whitman: A Life, which won a National Book Award. He also wrote books with his wife Anne Bernays including The Language of Names and Back Then: Two Lives in 1950s New York. He was the editor of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. He died from complications of Parkinson's disease on March 2, 2014 at the age of 88.

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