bluegargantua: (default)
Hey,

So the third and final volume of the Autobiography of Mark Twain came out in September. I don't know why I didn't know about it sooner, but there you have it. I ordered it and am now working my way through. As before, I'll be doing short excerpts from it. Here, he's talking about his daughter's performing career:

"Clara has been barnstorming on the concert stage in New England the past few weeks, and at last she has learned her trade and is qualified to succeed, and will succeed -- a great event for her, and a great event for me. By learning her trade, I mean that by normal processes her theories, which naturally seemed made of boiler-iron or some other indestructible substance, have been blown to the four winds by experience, that best of all teachers. According to her theories, her first duty was to be faithful to the highest requirements of her art and not move upon any plane but the highest; this meant classical music for all audiences, whether they were qualified to appreciate it and enjoy it or not. Experience has taught her that she and her audiences are in a tacit co-partnership, and that she must consider their share of the business and not arrange her performances to please herself alone. She has found, indeed, that her first duty is really to forget herself and give all her attention to pleasing her house. She has found that in striving to please the house she has accomplished several important things: her heart goes out to the house; by natural law the hearts of the house meet it half way; all hands are pleased; all dread and all anxiety have disappeared from her spirit, and life upon the platform has become to her a delight, and as pretty as a fairy-tale. She takes an undaughterful pleasure in noting that now the newspapers are beginning to concede with heartiness that she does not need the help of my name, but can make her way quite satisfactorily upon her own merits. This is insubordination, and must be crushed."

I'll have a full review once I've finished but the stink of bias will render it moot most likely.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hi,

So I finished up The Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol. 1 by...well, Mark Twain.

I say "finished" but I only read the introduction, the collection of early autobiographical attempts and then the first volume of the autobiography itself. I haven't read through the last 150-odd pages which are explanatory notes and academic material of various sorts.

So yeah. Mark Twain dictated his autobiography in his 70th year and left instructions that it should not be printed in full until 100 years after his death. Of course, his wishes weren't entirely respected but this is the first full reprinting backed up with a 30-year effort to make sure the work was as he wanted it. And Mr. Twain wanted it in a rambling style. His idea was that rather than strict chronology, he's simply chat about whatever attracted his attention and let his present-day interests lead him into anecdotes about his past. In this way, he hoped to build a more flowing, narrative style of work that will hold the reader's interest. He claimed that he would try and focus on the ordinary and everyday rather than his impressions of chance meetings with historic persons but he's Mark Twain and thus he knew General Grant personally as well as President Cleveland and Hellen Keller among other notables. That said, he talks about childhood friends and family servants just as much as most of the luminaries so you get a broad spectrum of the people in his life.

The book is a real treat to read and it's broken up by the original 2-hour dictations so the work comes across in short bite-sized chapters. Sadly, the book as a whole is too thick for bathroom or commuter reading, but if you get the electronic version, you'll have a nice source of quick reading for some time to come.

The rambling style also makes it hard to give a concise overview of the material, but Mr. Twain provides a range of character sketches which are fulsome in their praise or pretty sharp in their condemnation. From his own accounts of himself you get the impression of a guy who loved his family and friends almost as much as he loved a bit of deviltry. He always had mixed success in business and so you see concern for his family's financial security and disdain for most successful businessmen of the day mixed with his own personal satisfaction in being able to negotiate a good publishing contract (considering he'd be swindled in every possible way there wasn't much he'd miss).

What I find really interesting (rather as he predicted) was his discussions of public and private life during the latter half of the 1800s. Mark Twain saw the rise and fall of the Steamboat era on the Mississippi, the Civil War, the taming of the West, the widespread introduction of rail and electricity and by the time he's writing his autobiography, automobiles and airplanes are in their early stages (although he hasn't discussed either of them in this volume). Such a vast range of social and technological change is on display and often starkly juxtaposed as he moves from past to present and back again.

It's a hefty, but perfectly wonderful book. If you're interested and nearby I can certainly lend it out since I'm not doing any Twain scholarship at the moment. I'm also very much looking forward to the next installment.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hi,

So I finished up The Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol. 1 by...well, Mark Twain.

I say "finished" but I only read the introduction, the collection of early autobiographical attempts and then the first volume of the autobiography itself. I haven't read through the last 150-odd pages which are explanatory notes and academic material of various sorts.

So yeah. Mark Twain dictated his autobiography in his 70th year and left instructions that it should not be printed in full until 100 years after his death. Of course, his wishes weren't entirely respected but this is the first full reprinting backed up with a 30-year effort to make sure the work was as he wanted it. And Mr. Twain wanted it in a rambling style. His idea was that rather than strict chronology, he's simply chat about whatever attracted his attention and let his present-day interests lead him into anecdotes about his past. In this way, he hoped to build a more flowing, narrative style of work that will hold the reader's interest. He claimed that he would try and focus on the ordinary and everyday rather than his impressions of chance meetings with historic persons but he's Mark Twain and thus he knew General Grant personally as well as President Cleveland and Hellen Keller among other notables. That said, he talks about childhood friends and family servants just as much as most of the luminaries so you get a broad spectrum of the people in his life.

The book is a real treat to read and it's broken up by the original 2-hour dictations so the work comes across in short bite-sized chapters. Sadly, the book as a whole is too thick for bathroom or commuter reading, but if you get the electronic version, you'll have a nice source of quick reading for some time to come.

The rambling style also makes it hard to give a concise overview of the material, but Mr. Twain provides a range of character sketches which are fulsome in their praise or pretty sharp in their condemnation. From his own accounts of himself you get the impression of a guy who loved his family and friends almost as much as he loved a bit of deviltry. He always had mixed success in business and so you see concern for his family's financial security and disdain for most successful businessmen of the day mixed with his own personal satisfaction in being able to negotiate a good publishing contract (considering he'd be swindled in every possible way there wasn't much he'd miss).

What I find really interesting (rather as he predicted) was his discussions of public and private life during the latter half of the 1800s. Mark Twain saw the rise and fall of the Steamboat era on the Mississippi, the Civil War, the taming of the West, the widespread introduction of rail and electricity and by the time he's writing his autobiography, automobiles and airplanes are in their early stages (although he hasn't discussed either of them in this volume). Such a vast range of social and technological change is on display and often starkly juxtaposed as he moves from past to present and back again.

It's a hefty, but perfectly wonderful book. If you're interested and nearby I can certainly lend it out since I'm not doing any Twain scholarship at the moment. I'm also very much looking forward to the next installment.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hey,

Continuing to work my way through volume 1 of the autobiography of Mark Twain. Lots of amusing anecdotes, but the following is particularly fun.

Mr. Twain is the best speller in his household, but has some difficulties with spatial geometries (which is odd considering his years as a steamboat pilot). His house in Hartford CT has a long driveway and a round cul-de-sac of sorts allowing carriages to turn about. Looks a bit like so:

-----------o
h

So the driveway is the dashed lines, the roundabout is the "o" and the "h" is his house. Mr. Twain is being driven back to his house. He sits on the right side of the driver. They go past the house and as they approach the roundabout, the driver is about to go to the right (go counter-clockwise about the roundabout). Mr. Twain is concerned about this. He realizes that if they continue on, then when they come back, Mr. Twain will exit the carriage opposite the house instead of right at the door. Therefore, the driver should go to left (go clockwise around the roundabout) so that he will wind up exiting the carriage at his door (he will exit on the side of the driveway with the house).

The driver laughs and happily obliges him knowing, as you probably do, that it really doesn't matter, Mr. Twain is going to have to walk across the driveway to reach his door when he gets out. But this strikes Mr. Twain's mental blind spot and he has the driver go out of the driveway, turn around and try it two more times before he gives up. He accepts that he winds up on the wrong side every time but has no idea how it occurs.

He could be putting the reader on and yet it's a mental failing that seems just plausible enough that I believe it. If he is joking, he's proving his mastery of his craft once again.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hey,

Continuing to work my way through volume 1 of the autobiography of Mark Twain. Lots of amusing anecdotes, but the following is particularly fun.

Mr. Twain is the best speller in his household, but has some difficulties with spatial geometries (which is odd considering his years as a steamboat pilot). His house in Hartford CT has a long driveway and a round cul-de-sac of sorts allowing carriages to turn about. Looks a bit like so:

-----------o
h

So the driveway is the dashed lines, the roundabout is the "o" and the "h" is his house. Mr. Twain is being driven back to his house. He sits on the right side of the driver. They go past the house and as they approach the roundabout, the driver is about to go to the right (go counter-clockwise about the roundabout). Mr. Twain is concerned about this. He realizes that if they continue on, then when they come back, Mr. Twain will exit the carriage opposite the house instead of right at the door. Therefore, the driver should go to left (go clockwise around the roundabout) so that he will wind up exiting the carriage at his door (he will exit on the side of the driveway with the house).

The driver laughs and happily obliges him knowing, as you probably do, that it really doesn't matter, Mr. Twain is going to have to walk across the driveway to reach his door when he gets out. But this strikes Mr. Twain's mental blind spot and he has the driver go out of the driveway, turn around and try it two more times before he gives up. He accepts that he winds up on the wrong side every time but has no idea how it occurs.

He could be putting the reader on and yet it's a mental failing that seems just plausible enough that I believe it. If he is joking, he's proving his mastery of his craft once again.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hi,

Mark Twain is recounting a news event from 1906 that's all the rage. He's doing this in part because his first-hand telling of it is more compelling than a recounting by a historian at a later date. Near the end he says:

"If any stray copy of this book shall, by any chance, escape the paper-mill for a century or so, and then be discovered and read, I am betting that the remote reader will find that it is still news, and that it is just as interesting as any news he will find in the newspapers of his day and morning -- if newspapers shall be in existence then -- though let us hope they won't."

I don't know what he'd make of cable news, but I'd love to read his thoughts on the subject...
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hi,

Mark Twain is recounting a news event from 1906 that's all the rage. He's doing this in part because his first-hand telling of it is more compelling than a recounting by a historian at a later date. Near the end he says:

"If any stray copy of this book shall, by any chance, escape the paper-mill for a century or so, and then be discovered and read, I am betting that the remote reader will find that it is still news, and that it is just as interesting as any news he will find in the newspapers of his day and morning -- if newspapers shall be in existence then -- though let us hope they won't."

I don't know what he'd make of cable news, but I'd love to read his thoughts on the subject...
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hi,

So I'm working my way through The Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol. 1 (now AMTv1) and since it's going to take me awhile to get through it, I feel like posting some snippets that I found really amusing as I go along. Right now, I'm reading through a bunch of stuff that Twain wrote that were early stabs at his memoirs but which never found their way into the final product.

In this unfinished piece called "A Group of Servants", Twain is writing from Vienna and drawing character sketches of his household servants (Because you needed a staff of people to do your work for you in the late 1800's before machines came along. Electricity -- it works, bitches!). Herewith are two excepts:

"We have been housekeeping a fortnight now -- long enough to have learned how to pronounce the servants' names, but not to spell them. We shan't ever learn to spell them; they were invented in Hungary and Poland, and on paper they look the alphabet on a drunk."

"The other maid, Wuthering Heights (which is not her name), is about forty and looks considerably younger. She is quick, smart, active, energetic, breezy, good-natured, has a high-keyed voice and a loud one, talks thirteen to the dozen, talks all the time, talks in her sleep, will talk when she is dead, is here, there, and everywhere all at the same time, and is consumingly interested in every devilish thing that is gong on. Particularly if it is not her affair. And she is not merely passively interested, but takes a hand; and not only takes a hand, but the principal one; in fact will play the whole game, fight the whole battle herself, if you don't find some way to turn her flank. But as she does it in the family's interest, not her own, I find myself diffident about finding fault. Not so the family. It gravels the family. I like that."

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hi,

So I'm working my way through The Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol. 1 (now AMTv1) and since it's going to take me awhile to get through it, I feel like posting some snippets that I found really amusing as I go along. Right now, I'm reading through a bunch of stuff that Twain wrote that were early stabs at his memoirs but which never found their way into the final product.

In this unfinished piece called "A Group of Servants", Twain is writing from Vienna and drawing character sketches of his household servants (Because you needed a staff of people to do your work for you in the late 1800's before machines came along. Electricity -- it works, bitches!). Herewith are two excepts:

"We have been housekeeping a fortnight now -- long enough to have learned how to pronounce the servants' names, but not to spell them. We shan't ever learn to spell them; they were invented in Hungary and Poland, and on paper they look the alphabet on a drunk."

"The other maid, Wuthering Heights (which is not her name), is about forty and looks considerably younger. She is quick, smart, active, energetic, breezy, good-natured, has a high-keyed voice and a loud one, talks thirteen to the dozen, talks all the time, talks in her sleep, will talk when she is dead, is here, there, and everywhere all at the same time, and is consumingly interested in every devilish thing that is gong on. Particularly if it is not her affair. And she is not merely passively interested, but takes a hand; and not only takes a hand, but the principal one; in fact will play the whole game, fight the whole battle herself, if you don't find some way to turn her flank. But as she does it in the family's interest, not her own, I find myself diffident about finding fault. Not so the family. It gravels the family. I like that."

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hi,

I'm reading the new, full-length Autobiography of Mark Twain. This is Volume 1. It's 700 pages long and the introduction is 50 and some early material intended for the biography but never used take up another 150 pages. It's a monster of a book but I've already come across an anecdote too interesting not to share.

In 1888, Clemens was sitting down with his friend Thomas Edison who had just invented the phonograph. Clemens tried to leverage his friendship to obtain two of the devices early -- to cut in line for the orders that were already in place. His idea was that he would dictate into one of the machines and then mail the roll to Hartford where an assistant would play the recording and transcribe the recording to print.

Clemens had to wait in line like everyone else and he got ticked off and canceled the order. Had he been successful, he would've had one of the earliest "podcasts" in history.

Fascinating stuff
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hi,

I'm reading the new, full-length Autobiography of Mark Twain. This is Volume 1. It's 700 pages long and the introduction is 50 and some early material intended for the biography but never used take up another 150 pages. It's a monster of a book but I've already come across an anecdote too interesting not to share.

In 1888, Clemens was sitting down with his friend Thomas Edison who had just invented the phonograph. Clemens tried to leverage his friendship to obtain two of the devices early -- to cut in line for the orders that were already in place. His idea was that he would dictate into one of the machines and then mail the roll to Hartford where an assistant would play the recording and transcribe the recording to print.

Clemens had to wait in line like everyone else and he got ticked off and canceled the order. Had he been successful, he would've had one of the earliest "podcasts" in history.

Fascinating stuff
Tom

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