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Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain: A Biography
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Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain: A Biography

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  232 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
Mark Twain, the American comic genius who portrayed, named, and in part exemplified America’s “Gilded Age,” comes alive in Justin Kaplan’s extraordinary biography.

With brilliant immediacy, Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain brings to life a towering literary figure whose dual persona symbolized the emerging American conflict between down-to-earth morality and freewheeling ambition
ebook, 432 pages
Published June 30th 2008 by Simon Schuster (first published January 1st 1966)
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Faith Justice
Sep 07, 2010 Faith Justice rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: given-away
This was a slog. I "speed-read" several passages. Howard Mumford Jones on the back says, "The richest, most subtle, and best-sustained analysis of Mark Twain anywhere to be found..." He may be right, but that's the trouble - this is a sustained analysis . The relentless psychological analysis bogged down the fascinating narrative of a complex life. Some books are written by scholars for other scholars. Others are written by scholars for general readership. This is one of the former. This book c ...more
Nov 11, 2016 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still reading.

p 281: The Yankee and his machine "were twinned in his mind. Both were tests of a perfectible world in which, contrary to all his insights and experience, friction and mechanical difficulties were equivalents of ignorance and superstition. ... The ambivalences, disillusions, destructive fury, and finally, homicidal tantrums of the novel were fire drills in his imagination for the actual failure of the machine, machine values, and his dream of capitalist democracy in
Carla Diot
I enjoyed the book, however, I felt that it was almost too flourished to be a proper biography. It was more focused on Samuel Clemen's behavior, and less on what he had actually accomplished. Personally, I had never really had much information on Mark Twain, only the books that he was attributed to, long with the fact that he was born and died on Halley's Comet. As a result of this, I learned about Mark Twain's character, and Mark Twain versus Samuel Clemens. I definitely liked this unique and i ...more
Oct 19, 2012 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain is certainly one of the most fascinating characters who ever lived in America. I give this 1966 bio only 3 stars as it skips over Clemens' youth and begins with him in his early 20s, on the brink of success. The author is making a point-that were two men, Twain and Clemens-and they were in conflict. We think of Twain, the man who had piloted steamboats on the Mississippi and who satirized society, opposing all hypocrisy and sham. but, then, there was Mr. Clemens, su ...more
Mar 30, 2010 Kelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to say, I was a bit dissapointed in this book for one reason which Justin Kaplan points out in the preface: the book does not cover Twain's childhood. I was anticipating reading about his life in MO as a young boy and comparing it to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, but was let down. I think Kaplan's reasoning behind avoiding that first part of Twain's life makes sense - that Twain himself had already documented this early part of his life more aptly than anyone else could have. But in a book ab ...more
Lisa Maher
Aug 27, 2014 Lisa Maher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting examination of Twain's literary life. The biography begins when he started writing so there's nothing about his childhood in Missouri. It did a good job portraying a life lived in the tension between the Southern, non-conformist, backwoods, voice of the people and the celebrity writer who desired all that the gilded age had to offer. The book ends with the lines "To the end he remained as much an enigma and prodigy to himself as he was to the thousands at the Brick Presbyterian ...more
Sean Endymion
I'll continue reading this through my Mark Twain class, but in general, it is not for me. One, I hate biographies anyway, because they just tend to be a cycle of "fact-place-interesting tidbit-fact-place-interesting tidbit." This is no doubt a fully informative and interesting work (especially because it elucidates Clemens' dual personality), but it is nevertheless not my cup of tea. I will slip it onto my "gave-up-on" shelf and probably never look at it until I need an interesting factoid; ther ...more
Mark Luongo
Finally finished. It was one of the most difficult books I've ever read. It was so anecdotal and full of detail that you had to read it almost word for word.
It was interesting in parts but dragged in others.I never realized what a "tormented" soul Clemens was. His critical decision making was at best suspect. The author tries to show the fine line between the real man Samuel Clemens and his alter ego, Mark Twain the humorist. The reader must decide and after plowing through a book like this I'm
Apr 18, 2011 Louis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in 1966, it reads a little dry these days. I wish Kaplan had delved more into Clemens' personal demons and/or the content of his literature and its impact on Gilded Age culture and spent less time on his finances and correspondence with friends and confederates regarding same. The center of Clemens' story, in Kaplan's telling, is his obsessive and utterly doomed investment in an invention that he saw as revolutionary but was in fact outdated before it could even be perfected (which it ne ...more
Nov 25, 2008 Pat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting bio in that it starts in medias res, with Twain already grown into his pseudonym and his vocation as a humorist, writing and working in San Francisco. Twain came to his vocation late, so this means that many years are skipped over. But it allows the biographer to focus more on the Twain we care about, and the one who in any event, mined his earlier years thoroughly for his stories. Still, if you were looking for a cradle-to-grave account, this ain't it.
David Sam
Jul 26, 2014 David Sam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating biography of the two characters invented by their author: Samuel Clemens & Mark Twain---and the Jekyll and Hyde relationship between the two. Clemens/Twain was a great humorist and at his best in some of his writings or onstage, something Hal Holbrook seems to capture well. But he was a bitter and angry man, too. If you want to read behind the personae created by Twain, this is a good and deep exploration.
Joe Rodeck
A Mark Twain biography with most of its emphasis on the dollars and cents of his career; eg, goes on and on about his bad investment in a typesetting machine but the only thing he has to say about *Tom Sawyer* is that it didn't sell well. The writing and research level is top notch, but little to nothing about Twains's art.
David Wolf
Jul 04, 2011 David Wolf rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliantly written analysis of an author's life--a life that has to be closely studied to be believed. Twain was truly one of a kind--eccentric yet conformist, a southerner yet a northerner, in myriad ways a paradox of a human being. I just finished reading this book (7/3/11), and I recommend it to anyone who wants to get a greater appreciation for the art of biography.
Just finished last night. Lots of interesting details about Clemens and an interesting glimpse into that period of history in the U.S.

A birthday present from Leslie--can't wait to dive into it tonight!
Feb 29, 2008 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
If you like Twain, read this biography. It is excellent.
Feb 14, 2010 Marc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Decent biography; a bit more objective and far less Freudian than anything Van Wyck Brooks ever wrote.
May 20, 2013 Marvin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: To any with interest in Mark Twain
This was a very well written and enlightening book. It gave a very good account of Mark Twain the myth, alter-ego and legend and Samuel Clemens the man. A very enjoyable book.
George King
Mar 25, 2014 George King rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulitzer-bio
Very Enjoyable
Chambers Stevens
Kind of old school.
There are better books out on Twain.
But props to Justin Kaplan for being one of the first to tell the truth about Twain.
Adrian Chen
Mar 08, 2009 Adrian Chen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kind of a sad story. He goes bankrupt after he spends all his money on a typesetting machine. KEY LESSON: WRITERS SHOULD WRITE AND NOT GET DISTRACTED.
Jun 22, 2015 Nicole rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book is well researched but so ponderous and dry that I could not help feeling that it shared none of the passion that animated its subject and made him so beloved.
Dan Littman
Dan Littman rated it it was amazing
Mar 25, 2015
Jenn Howe
Jenn Howe rated it really liked it
Jul 26, 2015
Ken Davidian
Ken Davidian rated it really liked it
Jul 15, 2013
Mohamed Salah
Mohamed Salah rated it it was amazing
Feb 14, 2016
Thomas rated it it was amazing
Dec 16, 2014
Svein Arne Grindstad
Svein Arne Grindstad rated it really liked it
Apr 17, 2016
Nathan rated it liked it
Aug 23, 2011
Jerry rated it it was amazing
Sep 26, 2011
Kevin Wilson
Kevin Wilson rated it really liked it
Sep 07, 2014
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