Review of the Day
With this first volume in his trilogy, Scharnhorst (Univ. of New Mexico) revises and adds a tremendous amount of information to the myths associated with Twain’s childhood, his flight from the Civil War, the fractious development of his moral/comic persona, and the expansion of his career. The narrative culminates in Twain's marriage to heiress Olivia Louise Langdon and the heartbreaking deaths of his father-in-law and his wife's close friend Emma Nye. Scharnhost’s skepticism about the semifiction of Twain’s own autobiography and the interpretations of earlier biographers makes this book unique. It piles alternate interpretations on each other and corrects and fleshes out the record with a vast amount of new research. The text is clear and points to details previously unknown or unnoticed, and the chronicle of the Nevada and California years is laced with Twain acerbic, roughhewn material, which reveals why his writings were not fit for eastern drawing rooms. Scharnhorst places in proper perspective, perhaps for the first time, the influence on Twain of Livy, Bret Harte, and other mentors/confidants. Scholars will find a wealth of new information; general readers will find many insights into the making of the author. The first volume of Scharnhorst’s trilogy is, on its own, a landmark in Twain studies for this generation.
Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.
- Reviewer: D. E. Sloane, University of New Haven
- Recommendation: Essential
- Readership Level: General Readers, Lower-division Undergraduates, Upper-division Undergraduates, Graduate Students, Researchers/Faculty
- Interdisciplinary Subjects:
- Subject: Humanities - Language & Literature - English & American
- Choice Issue: aug 2018 vol. 55 no. 12
- Choice Review #: 55-4376