Book Trailer For Madam President

Monday, January 10, 2011

How To Read Twain's Massive Autobiography

Ok. So you bought the monster book for the monster price (34 smackers). The book is so physically big I can't put it in my back pack, but carry it like the old testament under my arm. So you transport this big bastard from coffee house to train to bus to wherever you are going. It is so big I let it ride in the back seat of my car as an extra passenger. Strapped in of course so it doesn't kill me if I can get in accident by knocking off my head. When I pull up to a coffee house I reach in the back like I am bringing in a toddler and carry the book cradled to my breast. Well, you get the picture.

Then you sit down and open the tome of tomes and wade through the editor's explanations that Twain started and stopped his autobiography over a period of twenty years and this is how they stitched it together from notes and typists and essays and secretaries who listened to the great man ramble and that if you put manuscript 56A and connect it to manuscript 100C from 1901 then you get a continuity that Twain really wanted and that was why this version is the authentic Twain biography and....By now you have lost your scholarly interest in the process and really want to read some Twain.

So it begins. It is interesting historically to hear the thoughts of a nineteenth century man who is witty and observant and who rambles on about all sorts of things but then you find yourself reading about his thoughts about a typesetting machine or his servants or the taxi in London or Grants stoic manner when dealing with publishers and you start to....drift....zzzzzz. Now being Mark Twain you rally again and that is when you begin to find a method...you, well, you...skim.

Now skimming is an art. You want to find the real nuggets of gold and maybe it is all gold but it is the twenty first century and you really don't have all this time to read about making a bust of General Grant and how the good general posed for the artist and, and....zzzzz...skim! Now you are to a section on Twain's thoughts on writing. Interesting. Very interesting. You read that and hope for more and read on and on and now you are in Europe and Twain is ruminating on the difference between Europe and the United States and you start to slow down...down...down...and so you...skim!

Blasphemous. I know. But the book has a lot of gold and maybe if you read every word you would be a better man or woman, but for me, I am after the Twain nuggets,so, I....SKIM!

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Books by William Hazelgrove