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Thursday, 18 November 2010

All the gossip you could ever want

About turn of the century literary culture, that is.

That's right folks, Autobiography of Mark Twain Volume 1 has arrived at the Librairie D+Q after only a century's delay.

Why Clemens was so stringent about the need for posthumous publication:
"A book that is not to be published for a century gives the writer a freedom which he could secure in no other way. In these conditions you can draw a man without prejudice exactly as you knew him and yet have no fear of hurting his feelings or those of his sons or grandsons."

This is the first of three unexpurgated volumes of his autobiography. Volume one is divided into two parts: the first half offers a selection of autobiographical writings published and unpublished, but produced between 1870 and 1905, while the second half is the autobiographical format Clemens eventually settled on, and dictated between 1906 and his death in 1910. Autobiography of Mark Twain is discursive, meandering, and chatty in the way most autobiographies aren't.

Perhaps he puts it best himself when describing the autobiographical project:
"Its plan is the old, old, old unflexible and difficult one -- the plan that starts you at the cradle and drives you straight for the grave, with no side-excursions permitted on the way. Whereas the side-excursions are the life of our life-voyage, and should be, also, of its history."

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