BOOK REVIEW _Mark Twain: Autobiographical Writings_. Edited with an Introduction by R. Kent Rasmussen. Penguin Books, 2012. Paperback. Pp. xlviii + 493. ISBN 978-0-14-310667-8. $16.00. Many books reviewed on the Mark Twain Forum are available at discounted prices from the Twain Web Bookstore. Purchases from this site generate commissions that benefit the Mark Twain Project. Please visit http://www.twainweb.net Reviewed for the Mark Twain Forum by: Alan Gribben Copyright © 2012 Mark Twain Forum. This review may not be published or redistributed in any medium without permission. Almost from the beginning, Mark Twain seemed to place a monetary value on every episode that occurred in his life. He became so fiercely proprietary about each detail that he refused to give other writers permission to quote from his letters, speeches, and writings in any form. His possessiveness about the incidents that had shaped his career even extended to reporters seeking to produce brief summaries of his experiences. As he bragged to his brother Orion in 1887, "I have never yet allowed an interviewer or biography-sketcher to get out of me any circumstance of my history which I thought might be worth putting some day into my autobiography. . . . They never got anything that was worth the printing." His clear intention was to mine these promising veins of ore solely for himself. A headnote describing Mark Twain that he either wrote or approved for _Mark Twain's Library of Humor_ (1888) cited his river-piloting days and his _Quaker City_ cruise, and then assured readers that "his succeeding books continue the story of his own life, with more or less fullness and exactness." To an importunate author (Will Clemens) seeking to write his biography in 1900, Twain objected emphatically: "Such books as you propose are not proper to publish during my lifetime. A man's history is his own property until the grave extinguishes his ownership in it." The recently retired and ingeniously resourceful R. Kent Rasmussen now retrieves and assembles those autobiographical snippets that Mark Twain treasured and scattered through his literary works. Although the publisher's advertising flier tries to connect this volume to the Mark Twain Project's _Autobiography of Mark Twain_ ("more compact than the University of California's best-seller"), in point of fact _Mark Twain: Autobiographical Writings_ does not include the previously unpublished materials in _Volume 1_of the recent California edition. What Rasmussen has done--and it is another one of his shrewd feats that will leave more than a few Twain scholars saying to themselves, "Well, I could have edited a book like Rasmussen's myself (if I had only thought of it)"--is to gather the portions of Twain's _Autobiography_ that appeared in the _North American Review_ in 1906 and 1907 (previously reprinted by Michael Kiskis, as Rasmussen duly notes). To those pieces Rasmussen adds selected passages of an autobiographical nature from _The Innocents Abroad_ (1869), _Mark Twain's Sketches New & Old_ (1875), _A Tramp Abroad_ (1880), the cub piloting and Hannibal chapters in _Life on the Mississippi_ (1883), _Following the Equator_ (1897), "Hunting the Deceitful Turkey" (1906), "My Boyhood Dreams" (1900), _Is Shakespeare Dead?_ (1909), "The Turning-Point of My Life" (1910), and Albert Bigelow Paine's "Unpublished Chapters from the Autobiography of Mark Twain" (1922). Rasmussen is scrupulous about explaining his process and his sources. Most important, the resulting compendium is truly entertaining and often illuminating. When the purely autobiographical reminiscences embedded in Twain's travel narratives are extracted from their surrounding contexts of journeys and sights, they form a comprehensive picture of what the author remembered about his life, especially his early years. We are reminded that young Sam Clemens saw his father repeatedly cuff "our harmless slave boy" (_Following the Equator_ Chapter 38), witnessed his mother confront a St. Louis cartman who was "beating his horse over the head with the butt of his heavy whip" ("Jane Lampton Clemens," written 1890-91), and was horribly embarrassed when as a ten year old he dreamed a steamboat was on fire and shouted out a mistaken alarm ("I crept humbly away," he related in _A Tramp Abroad_). To these fascinating recollections Rasmussen contributes an informative Introduction that courageously takes up the issue of Samuel Clemens's veracity, a fuller-than-usual chronology of Clemens's life, an up-to-date bibliography of scholarship devoted to his autobiographical writings, and a surprisingly ample "Glossary" that identifies everyone and everything from Susan Crane to John Hay to the Monday Evening Club to the starboard side of a river vessel. The revealing contents, reasonable price, and attractive format of this paperbound collection make it ideally suitable as a college textbook. Students can find much here to enlighten them about Mark Twain's remembered world. Scholars engaged in research will find themselves hampered--as they are in most of Twain's writings--by the lack of an index that might sort out the pervasive "so-hard-to-relocate-the-paragraph-in-which-he-told-that-anecdote" quality of his works. All the same, Rasmussen, who already has half a dozen excellent Mark Twain books to his credit, has again produced a highly usable and deeply enjoyable compilation of some of Twain's very best prose.