Mark Twain, A Literary Life by Everett Emerson

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Synopsis

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2000

"Mark Twain endures. Readers sense his humanity, enjoy his humor, and appreciate his insights into human nature, even into such painful experiences as embarrassment and humiliation. No matter how remarkable the life of Samuel Clemens was, what matters most is the relationship of Mark Twain the writer and his writings. That is the subject of this book."—from the Preface

In Mark Twain, A Literary Life, Everett Emerson revisits one of America's greatest and most popular writers to explore the relationship between the life of the writer and his writings. The assumption throughout is that to see Mark Twain's writings in focus, one must give proper attention to their biographical context.

Mark Twain's literary career is fascinating in its strangeness. How could this genius have had so little sense of what he should next do? As a young man, Samuel Clemens's first vocation, that of journeyman printer, took him far from home to the sights of New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, while his next vocation would give him the identity by which we most frequently know him. His choice of "Mark Twain" as a pen name cemented his bond with the river, as did such books as Life on the Mississippi and Huckleberry Finn. Then following an unsuccessful try at silver mining, Clemens worked as a newspaperman, humorist, lecturer, but also cultivated an interest in playwriting, politics, and philosophizing.

In reporting the author's life, Emerson has endeavored to permit Mark Twain to tell his own story as much as possible, through the use of letters and autobiographical writings, some unpublished. These fascinating glimpses into the life of the writer will be of interest to all who have an abiding affection for Samuel Clemens and his extraordinary legacy.

 

About Everett Emerson

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Everett Emerson is Alumni Distinguished Professor of English, Emeritus, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of The Authentic Mark Twain: A Literary Biography of Samuel L. Clemens, along with numerous other works on Mark Twain, and is the founder of the Mark Twain Circle of America.
 
Published November 24, 1999 by University of Pennsylvania Press. 416 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Mark Twain, A Literary Life

Kirkus Reviews

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Otherwise, however, influenced by genteel wife Olivia and money-making ambitions, Clemens would ""resist, almost betray his genius""--in Life on the Mississippi (Mark Twain ""disappears"" from the last 38 chapters), in A Connecticut Yankee (""he raised issues beyond his grasp""), in his increasin...

Mar 01 1984 | Read Full Review of Mark Twain, A Literary Life

Kirkus Reviews

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While there is a natural tendency to concentrate on the best-known fiction—Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee—Emerson has also unearthed a wide variety of lesser-known work, including early journalism, a few works published anonymously (e.g., the scatological 1601), and various fr...

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Publishers Weekly

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A bland but busy chronological account of Sam Clemens's writing career as Mark Twain, Emerson's meticulous run-through of the ups and downs--mostly downs--of the humorist's professional life suppl

Nov 22 1999 | Read Full Review of Mark Twain, A Literary Life

Publishers Weekly

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While Clemens lusted for fame, he was quite willing to settle for fortune--often just money enough to maintain the posh lifestyle he first acquired by marrying the puritanical Olivia Langdon and by his first successes as ""Mark Twain."" Bad investments, misplaced loyalties and a chronic inability...

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ForeWord Reviews

With biographical narration and liberal quoting from Twain’s complete writings, Emerson, in essence, co-authors with Samuel Clemens to create this all at once engaging and purified life story.

Oct 16 1999 | Read Full Review of Mark Twain, A Literary Life

Project MUSE

By merely looking at the facsimile, Emerson might have confirmed once and for all that Mark Twain began Tom Sawyer no later than early January 1873, that he decided through simple revisions to omit Huck’s mother from that novel and from any sequel set in a later fictive time, and that he evidentl...

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