"Everett Emerson has seemingly read every word written by and about Mark Twain. His biography is prodigiously well-researched and informative."—Boston Book Review
"This biography will win high praise from those who care most about Twain's literary achievement."—BooklistSelected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title
"Emerson's graphic record of the failed artist who created perhaps the greatest novel written in America, Huckleberry Finn, will be a standard resource."—Publishers Weekly
"With a spectacular, but not showy, familiarity with the entire range of Twain's works, Emerson shows a man who had trouble reconciling his Western persona with a proper Eastern lifestyle."—Library Journal
"An all at once engaging and purified life story."—ForeWord
"Mark Twain considered his writing the key feature of his life; this new biography takes him at his word. . . . [It] may inspire many to reread the Inimitable himself."—Kirkus Reviews
"This newest biography is based simply and sanely on the assumption, 'that one can understand virtually all of Mark Twain's works better if one can read them in their biographical context.' With a spectacular, but not showy, familiarity with the entire range of Twain's works, Emerson portrays a man who, in midlife, had trouble reconciling his rough-and-tumble, Western persona with a proper Eastern lifestyle. Emerson argues convincingly that Twain spent too much time trying both to write sequels to his most lucrative works and to establish himself as a dramatist and let himself be distracted by his social life and star-crossed business ventures. This welcome addition to Twainiana (the last wrap-up chapter is worth the price of admission) is recommended for all."—Library Journal
"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.
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.