Mark Twain founded the American voice. His works are a living national treasury: taught, quoted, and reprinted more than those of any writer except Shakespeare. His awestruck contemporaries saw him as the representative figure of his times, and his influence has deeply flavored the 20th and 21st centuries. Yet somehow, beneath the vast flowing river of literature that he left behind, books, sketches, speeches, not to mention the thousands of letters to his friends and his remarkable entries in private journals, the man who became Mark Twain, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, has receded from view, leaving us with only faint and often trivialized remnants of his towering personality. In Mark Twain, Ron Powers consummates years of thought and research with a tour de force on the life of our culture's founding father, re-creating the 19th century's vital landscapes and tumultuous events while restoring the human being at their center. He offers Sam Clemens as he lived, breathed, and wrote, drawing heavily on the preserved viewpoints of the people who knew him best (especially the great William Dean Howells, his most admiring friend and literary co-conspirator), and on the annals of the American 19th century that he helped shape. Powers's prose rivals Mark Twain's own in its blend of humor, telling detail, and flights of lyricism. With the assistance of the Mark Twain Project at Berkeley, he has been able to draw on thousands of letters and notebook entries, many only recently discovered.
2005 Publishers Weekly Listen Up Award, Biography/Memoir
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, Biography or Autobiography, 2005
"A masterful biography of interest to both general readers and academics." (Booklist) "Unlike Twain, whose prose Powers characterizes as "wild and woolly", the biographer is lucid and direct while maintaining a steady hand on the tiller of Twain's life as it courses a twisty path as wide and treacherous as the Mississippi itself. Powers, a wise, if loquacious captain, takes us on a wonderful journey from beginning to end." (Publishers Weekly)
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