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Bob Gill <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 14 Mar 2005 21:22:14 -0500
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> Anyone care to name their five "must Read" books about Clemens?  I'm new
> the list, how about some rookie hospitality?

  Off the top of my head I can think of only four, but here they are:
  Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, by Justin Kaplan.
  The Authentic Mark Twain, by Everett Emerson. Focuses on Twain's writing
first, his life second, and thus works as a good companion volume to
Kaplan's, I think. There's a more recent edition of this under a different
title, but I haven't gotten around to it yet and can't recall the title.
  Albert Bigelow Paine's 3- or 4-volume biography from 1912 or so. It has
its problems with deliberate inaccuracy and omissions, and I expected to
dislike it when I read it 15 or 20 years ago. But it also has a lot of
first-hand information from Twain's friends, especially out in the West,
that can't be found anywhere else. For that reason it might still be
considered indispensable.
  The Ordeal of Mark Twain, by Van Wyck Brooks. OK, many _ even most _ of
Brooks' interpretations have been discredited in the past few decades, and
because of that, this is another book I expected to dislike. But it seems to
me that in a sense Brooks, in 1920, established the terms for discussions of
Twain for the next 40 or 50 years. In criticism, as in science, it's
possible to be wrong but important, and I think this book qualifies.
  As I said, I can't think of a fifth off the top of my head, but there are
definitely others worth a look.

Bob G.