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Barney and/or Lenora Dannelke <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 15 Dec 2003 09:34:48 -0800
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 Charlie just asked about "a good starter" Twain bio and though it's like picking favorite children [they usually all have qualities both praiseworthy and exasperating] I'm leaning toward 2 at the moment. 

 First there is INVENTING MARK TWAIN by Andrew Hoffman, which I found to be a very well rounded overview of Twain's whole career. Even if you have nits to pick with the authors suppositions regarding the exact when/where/why of Clemens choosing to be TWAIN instead of Clemens, this is hardly the bulk of the book. It really seemed to me to cover all the high and low points of Twain's life and career in letters. 

 For his childhood, his family and all of its consequences I would recommend Ron Powers DANGEROUS WATER: A Biography of the Boy Who Became Mark Twain. This really  seemed to cover quite a bit of fertile ground that gets, I don't want to say short shrift, but, a much quicker review elsewhere. The structure is also interesting in that it breaks from the chronological in both amusing and informative ways.

 I should probably say at this point that the reason I'm weighing the merits of these Twain biographies, and 62 others I've picked up in the last 3 years, is that I'm writing a play featuring Twain which is tentatively going to be called THE TROUBLE STARTS, and although I am going to be taking some slight liberties I'm spending a good deal of time trying to figure out who got it all "mostly right". When you throw in Clara and Paines' umm, manipulations, changing critical and biographical theories over the decades, and the occasional academic agenda it's easy to lose sight of the forest. So, those are my two picks. This month.

If anybody has thoughts on these 2 biographies or the forthcoming Dangerous Intimacy: The Untold Story of Mark Twain's Final Years by Karen Lystra I would love to hear them.

 Regards and best wishes to all the Twainiacs,

 Barney Dannelke