Mark Twain: An Illustrated Biography
Geoffrey C. Ward, Dayton Duncan & Ken Burns
Knopf, 2001 (2001)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
Reviewed by David Pitt
ne word springs to mind here:
. This coffee-table biography of the great storyteller is so good, so well executed, that Twain's fans won't be able to resist it. Mark Twain - or, if you prefer to use his real name, Samuel Langhorne Clemens - was born November 30, 1835, in a shack near Hannibal, Missouri. He loved billiards and cats, wasn't so fond of exercise and opera. He was a riverboat pilot, an inventor (his self-pasting scrapbook was the only one that turned a profit), a cigar smoker, a world traveler.
e wrote for newspapers, lectured around the world, and gave us some wonderful books:
The Innocents Abroad
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Life on the Mississippi
, the list goes on and on. (He also wrote a brilliant and little-known critique of Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Scientists called, appropriately enough,
. It was published in 1907, after much trouble, and reprinted recently in paperback by Prometheus Books.)
his biography is the companion to the four-hour documentary directed by Burns (
The Civil War
, etc.) and written by Duncan and Ward. It is, as the saying goes, lavishly illustrated - with rare photographs, documents, letters, and whatnot - and beautifully presented. The book's only flaw is that there is too little of it: its 269 pages go by way too quickly, and we wish there were more of them. Twain's life contains enough material for a much bigger book, and, speaking as a rather rabid Twain fan, I wish the authors had kept going. But what there is, is splendid.
Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.
Find more NonFiction books on our
or in our book