Mark Twain by Ron Powers
A Life

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Mark Twain founded the American voice. His works are a living national treasury: taught, quoted, and reprinted more than those of any writer except Shakespeare. His awestruck contemporaries saw him as the representative figure of his times, and his influence has deeply flavoured the 20th and 21st centuries. Yet somehow, beneath the vast flowing river of literature that he left behind — books, sketches, speeches, not to mention the thousands of letters to his friends and his remarkable entries in private journals — the man who became Mark Twain, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, has receded from view.
It is hard to imagine a life that encompassed more of its times. Sam Clemens left his frontier boyhood in Missouri for a life on the Mississippi during the golden age of steamboats. He skirted the western theater of the Civil War before taking off for an uproariously drunken newspaper career in the Nevada of the Wild West. As his fame as a humorist and lecturer spread, witnessing the extremes of wealth and poverty of New York City and the Gilded Age (which he named). He travelled to Europe on the first American pleasure cruise and revitalized the prim genre of travel writing. He wooed and won his lifelong devoted wife, yet quietly pined for the girl who was his first crush and whom he would re-encounter many decades later. He invented and invested in get-rich-quick schemes. He became the toast of Europe and a celebrity who toured the globe. His comments on everything he saw, many published here for the first time, are priceless.
The man who emerges in Powers' brilliant telling is both the magnetic, acerbic, and hilarious Mark Twain of myth and a devoted friend, husband, and father; a whirlwind of optimism and restless energy; and above all, a wide-eared and wide-eyed observer who absorbed every sight and sound, and poured it into his characters, plots, jokes, businesses, and life. Mark Twain offers an unrivalled insight into the life of one of America's greatest writers whose culteral influence was seminal in the creation of modern America.

About Ron Powers

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Ron Powers is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who lives in Vermont.
Published September 20, 2005 by Free Press. 737 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Mark Twain

Publishers Weekly

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Many readers of Powers's biography of Mark Twain noted the historian's remarkable sensitivity to the use of rhetoric, dialect and drama in Twain's work. As the audio's narrator, Pow

Dec 05 2005 | Read Full Review of Mark Twain: A Life

Publishers Weekly

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After dozens of biographies of Twain (1835–1910), one can fairly ask, "Why another?" But Powers, who wrote about Twain's Missouri childhood in Dangerous Wa

Aug 01 2005 | Read Full Review of Mark Twain: A Life


Powers, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Flags of My Fathers and has studied Twain for more than 20 years, uses the resources of the Twain Project and his own storytelling gift to bring this complex and uniquely American writer to vivid life.

Sep 08 2014 | Read Full Review of Mark Twain: A Life

Bookmarks Magazine

Powers previously tackled Twain’s boyhood in Dangerous Waters: A Biography of the Boy Who Became Mark Twain (1999), but here he sets Twain’s long, complex, and often tragic life against the backdrop of an emerging nation.

Aug 27 2007 | Read Full Review of Mark Twain: A Life

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