Thanks for the review. I especially like the final paragraph and the line that Kaplan has seemingly "bought into no previous conception of Mark Twain." Well, at least he seems to give little credit to all the literary purchases he made for his own biographical conceptions. ---Jason -----Original Message----- From: ryr [mailto:[log in to unmask]] Sent: Monday, December 01, 2003 11:14 PM To: [log in to unmask] Subject: A definitive biography of Mark Twain, even a I found this in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, but couldn't get the URL to post. But I was able to do so from the Phil. Inquirer. Thought it might be of interest to the list. L. Ackerson http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/2003/11/16/entertainment/7264145.htm Philadelphia Inquirer | 11/16/2003 | A definitive biography of Mark Twain, even after all these years | Posted on Sun, Nov. 16, 2003 The Singular Mark Twain By Fred Kaplan Doubleday. 500 pp. $35 Reviewed by Allen Barra Biographies of American literary greats come and go these days with depressing regularity, distinguished from their classic predecessors of the '40s, '50s and '60s by little more than their thickness and their overreliance on now-dated (and usually French-inspired) literary trends. The Singular Mark Twain by Fred Kaplan - biographer of Dickens, Henry James and Gore Vidal - is a refreshing exception; it is almost unprecedented for a truly definitive biography of a writer of Mark Twain's stature to appear after so many years, but here it is, supplanting Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, the 1966 biography by Justin Kaplan (apparently no relation). But, then, there really are no other American writers of Mark Twain's stature. In Kaplan's words, "Like no other nineteenth-century American literary figure in that his name alone brings to mind images and issues that are at the heart of American cultural history, that are central to a definition of America in the nineteenth century as well as today." Or stated another way, he's the only American author whose books, more than a century after they were written, can still be found in the children's sections of our libraries while simultaneously stirring angry debate at the college level. The Singular Mark Twain is full of new material on the subjects of Twain's finances (a tangled mess to the very end), his early travels (Hawaii was his favorite: "No other land could so longingly and so beseechingly haunt me"), and his overseas reputation (Freud, among many other prominent intellectuals, was a great admirer). Kaplan's major contribution may ultimately be in what he has taken out of the Twain mythography. No longer will Twain be referred to - at least not correctly - as an inspired primitive; he was remarkably well self-schooled in the classics from Virgil to Jane Austen (whom he detested). Gone is the image of Mark Twain the happy, rustic traveler; he loathed Paris, and despite extensive travels in Europe and the Middle East, he remained as staunchly American in his tastes as Dickens was English. And followers of the anti-Christ forever lose one of their major propagandists: "His satire was directed not at Christianity but at human folly, hypocrisy, and selfishness." Most of all, gone forever is the popular notion that Samuel Clemens and Mark Twain were two distinct facets of one personality. Though "biographers and psychological critics have found significance in a man who, in creating an alternative self calls himself 'Twain,' " Clemens/Twain increasingly became a single figure until "the writer and the man became inseparable... . But in his lifetime, they were essentially inseparable anyway." Kaplan seems to have bought into no previous conception of Mark Twain, including Twain's own. "A creative revisionist," says Kaplan of his subject's own myth-mongering. The result is the clearest, most comprehensive portrait yet of the man whom William Dean Howells called "the Lincoln of our literature."