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The Autobiography of Mark Twain

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3.93  ·  Rating details ·  4,725 ratings  ·  281 reviews
Mark Twain's autobiography is a classic of American letters, to be ranked with the autobiographies of Benjamin Franklin and Henry Adams.... It has the marks of greatness in it--style, scope, imagination, laughter, tragedy."--From the Introduction by Charles Neider

Mark Twain was a figure larger than life: massive in talent, eruptive in temperament, unpredictable in his acti
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Paperback, Modern Classics, 508 pages
Published November 28th 2000 by Harper Perennial (first published April 1st 1959)
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Susan Branch
Jun 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started crying from happiness at about page two. When I finished this book, Joe and I got in the car and drove directly to his house in Hartford CT and I cried all the way through that too. He is wonderful, brilliant, genius. Learning about his life from his own pen felt like a gift. From him, I've gleaned tiny informative bits to add to my mental notes on "how to write." ...more
Virgilio
Sep 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
“In this Autobiography I shall keep in mind that I am speaking from the grave. I am literally speaking from the grave, because I shall be dead when the book issues from the press”(Twain xxxv).
The Autobiography of Mark Twain explores the many aspects and anecdotes of Mark Twain’s life, as well as the many people who influenced Twain and his work immensely. He reveals his personal thoughts of the people around him, and the world around him. He reveals himself as a person who writes what he knows,
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May Spangler
Feb 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Striking: his use of chiasmus (crossing of terms in one sentence). For instance: "When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it" (p. 4). Well, that's high lit and philosophy, all packaged with one powerful sense of humor, plus a touch of teasing. Worse part is that I do feel that way about n ...more
Larry Bassett
This is NOT the Mark Twain Post 100 years Autobiography that everyone is talking about. This book was copyrighted in 1959 by the editor Charles Neider. The 2010 Autobiography of Mark Twain. Vol. 1 is found elsewhere on GRs.

Neider's most important book, however, was arguably The Autobiography of Mark Twain (1959), in which he fashioned a chronological structure that was lacking in the original material and included never-before-published passages. Certainly the most widely read version of Mark T
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Hannah Cook
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
When it was good it was very very good but when it was bad it was boring af.
Brian Flatt
Jul 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the human drama of one of the world's most beloved authors
Shelves: memoir
Ok, I have decided to mete out the 5 stars sparingly. The rating wouldn't mean much if it was given to just any old book that I happened to like.
This book though, is without a doubt, one of those few that actually deserves more than 5 stars and it is therefore one of my favorite books of all time.

Why?

Well, I think there are some books that you read and you think, upon closing the last page, "Hmmm, that was a pretty good book", but then if asked about it a few days later you might be hard pres
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Jill
Nov 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this so much. It is a completely unconventional bio, and the introduction is extremely interesting and helpful in understanding the book's structure: it doesn't have one. As Twain remembered things, he wrote them. They were to be published in the order of composition. I like this. It helps it read more like a journal. There were some really tragic accounts. I think saddest of all are the accounts of the deaths of his children - most especially his infant. His daughters seem to be remar ...more
Marty Mangold
Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Twain fans wanting a shorter version of the Autobiography
Shelves: non-fiction
Twain's Autobiography was dictated and written around 1906, intended for full publication only after 100 years. This is the mid-century edition from 1958 of a portions of that longer work. Restricted by Twain's surviving daughter, and Twain's own instructions, this is not as complete or as long as the subsequent edition, but longer than the editions from the 1920s and 1940s.

Neider provides an excellent introduction, then stays out of the way.

Favorite quote from Neider's introduction, commentin
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Spiros
Apr 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy leisurely journeys
A nice, leisurely stroll through selected incidents in the eventful life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, as told by Mark Twain. He used the freedom of speaking "from beyond the grave" to allow an unrestrained view of people and events that he recalled, but aside from Bret Harte and several of his earliest publishers, he takes a fairly charitable view of the follies and foibles of his fellow men and women. And I'm inclined to think that he might well have invented Captain Haddock, from the Tin Tin c ...more
Kathryn
Apr 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I ought to have read through this much faster and less thoroughly since I was looking specifically for musical references while researching a Twain-themed library music program, but I couldn't help but read through most of it, especially towards the beginning. Yes, Twain constantly rambles into miscellaneous musings but those musings are often pure gold, skillfully rendered with often gut-splittingly hilarity.

He was an international celebrity at this point who didn't have to write anything exc
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Sarah Booth
Mar 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I’ve read this book twice. Part of it my friend and I read to one another when we were traveling in France and had to share a bed. We laughed so hard that people wondered what we were up to. Samuel Clemenz (so?) wrote about his life and adventures and how he became Mark Twain which is a pen name taken from his river piloting days. While an extremely funny book in parts, Twain’s life is peppered by tragedy such as the loss of his brother and some of his children, but it is a wonderful read that y ...more
Ken
Feb 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Filled with truth and stretchers. I like the stretchers best.
Roof Beam Reader (Adam)
Painful and wonderful.

Read the full review:
http://classiclit.about.com/od//fl/Th...
...more
Cathy Wacksman
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mark Twain is an exceptional writer and this autobiography is worth reading. He expounded a bit much on some of the people he describes, thus making it more of a story than a strict autobiography. The loss of his children and wife were sad to learn.
Karith Amel
I defy anyone to read this book and not to love this man. He is witty beyond measure, but it is a gentle humor in the end. The humor of a man who lived life sincerely and felt things deeply. A man of deep wisdom and deeper compassion. It is a self-deprecating humor (for his wisdom is the wisdom of Socrates -- the kind that recognizes its own limitations, its own folly). It is the humor of a man who loved life well, and saw in it, always, something of majesty and mystery and delight.

I don't know
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John Wiswell
Aug 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Humor readers, biography readers, classics readers, literary readers
Why read anyone else on Mark Twain when you can read his own words? Twain was brutally honest, devoting entire chapters to times of personal loss and failure. He covers one particular night when he bombed at a lecture, showing no particular ego. In another he covers the night his brother died with savage emotional honesty. He explains as many aspects of his own development as he can think of, from growing cold in learning the ways of literature, to growing up on the Mississippi, to his spiritual ...more
Eric
Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Mark Twain on "the Thing Called an Authors' Reading"
"I think that [Thursday afternoon at Vassar] was the first exploitation of a new and devilish invention—the thing called an Authors’ Reading. This witch’s Sabbath took place in a theatre, and began at two in the afternoon. There were nine readers on the list, and I believe I was the only one who was qualified by experience to go at the matter in a sane way. I knew, by my old acquaintanceship with the multiplication table, that nine times ten a
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Lavinia
Most of it is funny. And it’s frustrating when, compared to Twain, I’m leading an incredibly dull life. Everything that is interesting, funny, outrageous, supernatural & all seems to happen to him. And oh, the envy on his wittiness!
In some parts, it’s touchy. Not only the episodes about his mother and brother (characters in his books – Sid and Aunt Polly, for those who remember), but especially the memories about his wife and daughters. Susy’s biography, written when she was about 14 (have no id
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Tortla
I read a selection of chapters actually published (in periodical form) during his life, which was quite heavy on the excerpts from his daughter's biography of him. A conceit that made for this humorist's story, full of satirical and joking anecdotes as it was, surprisingly heartfelt and full of little meditations on mortality (not just his daughter's death at twenty-four, but quite a few other references to friends lost). While still teeming with Twain's trademark wit, of course. It was sweet.

On
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Patricia
Nov 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Kovacs
Recommended to Patricia by: Sandra
Brilliantly and hilariously mean, for the most part. A rather disconnected collection of memories, anecdotes, and rants, set aside to be published posthumously. Twain spends several chapters each excoriating a former business partner of his and the writer Bret Hart. Of the widow of a poet friend, he says, "A strange and vanity-devoured, detestable woman! I do not believe I could ever learn to like her except on a raft at sea with no other provisions in sight." Most enjoyable. He also talks about ...more
Christian
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An extraordinary life and book. This book was dictated in the final years of his life, and I felt like I was sitting in front of Mark Twain and hearing him tell me his story as a friend would. I laughed and got choked up multiple times as I read about his triumphs, misadventures, and losses. It was very interesting to see how many famous stories of his were directly taken from his own life or the lives of those he knew. The structure is unlike any other autobiography I've read, as it follows a g ...more
Mike
Oct 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone, fans of Mr. Twain
I read a biography of Mr. Twain because I was curious about the man. In it I learned that he published the "Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant", which I then read. And, just to see how he himself wrote it, I then read this, his autobiography.

Are all the facts there? Are facts shoved around and bent for his nefarious purposes? Who cares! This is another great read from one of America's best writers of any century. A master of imagery and tale-telling, Clemens makes his life a pleasant read for
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Julie Mendel
Jan 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
I found this book to be fascinating. There are personal philosophies, political aspects and well thought out plans incorporated in every page. Being one who journals, I was intrigued by the notes Twain left behind, things like "publish all of this but not until I am dead." the thought of not publishing his biography until he had been dead for a hundred years was genius, no worries about offending friends and acquaintances because they would also be gone as would likely be there children and pote ...more
Adam
Feb 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading this autobiography I have gained new insights into the genius of Clemens. It has given me a better perspective and understanding of his work. If you like his stuff, this will increase your appreciation for it. If you are curious about why people make such a big deal about Twain, this will help you answer that question too.
Leslie
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This compilation is very well done. I would love to have sat and had a cup of tea with this man. It is my privledge to be able to visit his only remaining original CT home (The Redding one is rebuilt after a fire destroyed its predecessor). A brilliant tragic life. Read it when you can.
Dirk
Aug 08, 2009 rated it liked it
I had to stop reading this one half way through. I got the feeling this was Mark Twain's last joke on the world. ...more
Greg
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Toward the end of his life, in the first decade of the 20th century, Samuel Clemens began to write material for "Mark Twain's autobiography," which -- because of the many frank, and not always flattering, portraits of many people still alive -- he intended to have published after his death. Shortly, however, he decided that dictating to a stenographer was an easier way of having his voluminous thoughts recorded. When he died in 1910, only four months after the death of his second daughter Jean ( ...more
Carl R.
May 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Even after a hundred years, you can’t beat Mark Twain for originality. After fiddling around with the idea of an autobiography or memoir for a couple of decades, rejecting most of his efforts as too literary, he finally around 1902 hit on the idea of 1) eschewing chronology; and 2) dictating rather than writing the story of his life. Chronology ruined spontaneity, he reasoned, and allowed the writer to distort time and facts and hide behind the need to stick to a time line. The act of writing le ...more
Michael
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally finished this so I'll be boring people at social functions a little less with Twain minutia, maybe. Was absolutely hooked by the first paragraph, which made me laugh out loud twice. This is a lean 500 pg. edit of Twain's full autobiography -- which apparently contains full novels.

This edit is from 1958, before all of what Twain wrote was even available. I think it focuses too much on his Twain's takes his contemporaries -- Brett Harte, Marie Corelli, Thomas Bailey Aldrich -- all of whom
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Dorothy
I was born and raised in England so to me, Mark Twain is not the icon that American readers appreciate. I suppose I read 'Huckleberry Finn' as a teenager, but nothing else of his. This is an unusual autobiography in that it does not begin at birth continuing in a linear fashion as most biographies do. Rather it is a series of vignettes in no particular order, but rather dictated as his whims directed. I have to say that, having read this, I find I dislike the man. For one thing, he soundly criti ...more
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Twain's bitterness at the death of loved ones. 1 2 Feb 19, 2016 03:06PM  
What ever happened to Mark Twain? 3 11 Sep 02, 2012 07:59PM  

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Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called "the Great American Novel", and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).

Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He apprenticed with a printer. He also work
...more

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