Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Clemens, was one of the most iconic American writers in our nation's history. During his lifetime, he made several attempts to record his thoughts, a well as anecdotes from his own past. However, he made it clear that he did not want any of these more personal writings to be published for at least a century after his death. To that purpose, the Mark Twain Project has compiled and edited as many of these bits of writing as they could get their hands on. The result is a good, if overly academic, collection of the old curmudgeon's musings. This is Volume 1 of their efforts.
What I found was that much of the book is taken up by notes from the editors on when a piece of writing was created, or under what circumstances a section of Twain's autobiography was dictated or jotted down. A lot of these details, which would appeal only to the serious academic, should be skipped over by the typical reader. I personally was more interested in the little-known bits and pieces that Clemens created and that did not get published until this edition was released. I think each person who takes up this book will flip through it and find what interests them, and enjoy those parts they find relevant and entertaining.
I enjoyed learning more about Twain's friendship with General Grant and his family. One of my favorite parts of the book was the set of observations by Clemens' clever young daughter, Suzy, who sadly passed away from illness in her twenties. She makes remarkable observations for a child. As sweet as her doting remarks about her papa are, a sense of melancholy also hangs over her words. Once Suzy was grown up, there came a time when Twain had just arrived across the Atlantic when word came that she was ill, and before his wife could finish making the crossing back home to check on her, he received word that he had lost his precious girl. It would not be the only time tragedy would strike amongst his loved ones, but it is the main one described in this book.
This book edition was just released in November 2010 through University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-26719-0. No suggested retail price was available on the copy I borrowed from the library but I am sure this has a hefty price tag, judging from the tremendous size of it. This was actually heavy to lift. It was enjoyable but due to all of the academic notations and explanations, it was not quite as enjoyable as it otherwise could have been. There are plans to make the book available electronically, as well as a continuation of the project in the future with at least a second volume.