Synopses & Reviews
The library of America is dedicated to publishing America's best and most significant writing in handsome, enduring volumes, featuring authoritative texts. Hailed as the "finest-looking, longest-lasting editions ever made" (The New Republic), Library of America volumes make a fine gift for any occasion. Now, with exactly one hundred volumes to choose from, there is a perfect gift for everyone.
This with its companion volume is the most comprehensive collection ever published of Mark Twain's short writings: the incomparable stories, sketches, burlesques, hoaxes, tall tales, speeches, satires, and maxims of America's greatest humorist. Arranged chronologically and containing many pieces restored to the form in which Twain intended them to appear, the volumes show with unprecedented clarity the literary evolution of Mark Twain over six decades of his career. This volume contains eighty pieces from the years 1891 to 1910, when Twain emerged from bankruptcy and personal tragedy to become the white-suited, cigar- smoking international celebrity who reported on his own follies and those of humanity with an unerring sense of the absurd. Some stories display Twain's fascination with money and greed, such as "The Esquimau Maiden's Romance" and "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg". Other stories, written after the death of his daughter Susy in 1896, explore the outer limits of fantasy and psychic phenomena, including "Which Was the Dream?", "The Great Dark", and "My Platonic Sweetheart". The United States military involvement in Cuba, China, and the Philippines turned Twain's attention to political satire and invective. "To the Person Sitting in Darkness", "The United States of Lyncherdom", "The Czar's Soliloquy", "King Leopold's Soliloquy", and "The War Prayer" are biting denunciations of European and American imperialism. Other political issues inspired articles and stories about the Jews, the notorious Dreyfus case, and vivisection. Twain's increasingly unorthodox religious opinions are powerfully, often comically expressed in "Extracts from Adam's Diary", "Eve's Diary", "Eve Speaks","Adam's Soliloquy", "A Humane Word from Satan", "What Is Man?", "Extract from Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven", and "Letters from the Earth". "Against the assault of laughter", he said, "nothing can stand". Twain's brilliant inventiveness continues to shine in such later comic masterpieces as "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences", "Italian Without a Master", "Hunting the Deceitful Turkey", and "My First Lie and How I Got Out of It". A posthumous collection of proverbs and aphorisms ("More Maxims of Mark") is included as an appendix. The publishing history of every story, essay, article, and speech has been thoroughly researched, and in each instance the most authoritative text has been reproduced. This collection also includes an extensive chronology of Twain's complex life, helpful notes on the people and events referred to in his works, and a guide to the texts.
About the Author
Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri, in 1835, and died at Redding, Connecticut in 1910. In his person and in his pursuits he was a man of extraordinary contrasts. Although he left school at twelve when his father died, he was eventually awarded honorary degrees from Yale University, the University of Missouri, and Oxford University. His career encompassed such varied occupations as printer, Mississippi riverboat pilot, journalist, travel writer, and publisher. He made fortunes from his writing but toward the end of his life he had to resort to lecture tours to pay his debts. He was hot-tempered, profane, and sentimental-and also pessimistic, cynical, and tortured by self-doubt. His nostalgia helped produce some of his best books. He lives in American letters as a great artist, the writer whom William Dean Howells called "the Lincoln of our literature."