By Ron Powers
Free Press, Hardcover, 9780743248990, 736pp.
Publication Date: September 13, 2005
List Price: $35.00*
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It is hard to imagine a life that encompassed more of its times. Sam Clemens left his frontier boyhood in Missouri for a life on the Mississippi during the golden age of steamboats. He skirted the western theater of the Civil War before taking off for an uproariously drunken newspaper career in the Nevada of the Wild West. As his fame as a humorist and lecturer spread, witnessing the extremes of wealth and poverty of New York City and the Gilded Age (which he named). He travelled to Europe on the first American pleasure cruise and revitalized the prim genre of travel writing. He wooed and won his lifelong devoted wife, yet quietly pined for the girl who was his first crush and whom he would re-encounter many decades later. He invented and invested in get-rich-quick schemes. He became the toast of Europe and a celebrity who toured the globe. His comments on everything he saw, many published here for the first time, are priceless.
The man who emerges in Powers' brilliant telling is both the magnetic, acerbic, and hilarious Mark Twain of myth and a devoted friend, husband, and father; awhirlwind of optimism and restless energy; and above all, a wide-eared and wide-eyed observer who absorbed every sight and sound, and poured it into his characters, plots, jokes, businesses, and life. "Mark Twain" offers an unrivalled insight into the life of one of America's greatest writers whose culteral influence was seminal in the creation of modern America.