Mark Twain has returned vividly to life in the person of actor Hal Holbrook (who’s slated to appear at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego on March 19) for more than half a century. Now he’s back in his own voice, speaking his “whole frank mind” in the uncensored “Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1.” To call it the publishing event of the decade cannot be too far wrong.
This University of California Press edition, published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the author’s death, as he instructed, is not “exactly as he left it” per the dust jacket copy. Much has been added: Twain’s autobiographical ramblings, dictated to a stenographer beginning in 1906, plus the preliminary manuscripts and dictations dating from 1870-1905, make up just over 400 pages of this 736-page volume. An insightful intro, explanatory notes, appendices and so forth account for the rest.
The unwhitewashed memoirs—as scrupulously delivered to us by a team of editors headed by Harriet Elinor Smith—promise to yield plenty of surprises. More than half the material has never been published (scholars have been permitted prior access and partial use), and none of it as Twain intended; this is the first in a three-volume series to be published over the next five years.
America has had its shrewd social commentators since Twain’s departure, including Will Rogers, Richard Pryor and George Carlin. Just a week before his unexpected death in 2008, Carlin was fittingly named the winner of the annual Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
“Last Words” (published by Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster) is pure Carlin, based on interviews with collaborator Tony Hendra. The celebrated comedian is as candid as ever here, talking about his long struggle with drugs, and his feelings about being clean and sober at last; his protracted tax battle with the IRS; and his family.
More from Jordan:
Gift guide: Disney animation revival, Fleischer’s Gulliver, Miyazaki on DVD
Gift guide: ‘Complete Metropolis’ on Blu-ray and DVD; TCM Film Festival
Gift guide: ‘Power of Myth,’ ‘Cadfael’ on DVD
Disney docs new to DVD recall songwriters, Walt’s trip to South America
Dali-Disney films a bonus on ‘Fantasia’ Blu-ray
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