Better late than never.
“In November the University of California, Berkeley, where the manuscript is in a vault, will release the first volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography,” according to the paper. “The eventual trilogy will run to half a million words, and shed new light on the quintessentially American novelist.”
“Robert Hirst, who is leading the team at Berkeley editing the complete text, says that more than half of it has still never appeared in print,” the Independent reported. “Only academics, biographers, and members of the public prepared to travel to the university’s Bancroft research library have previously been able to read it in full.
“‘When people ask me ‘did Mark Twain really mean it to take 100 years for this to come out’, I say ‘he was certainly a man who knew how to make people want to buy a book’,” Dr Hirst said.
It’s really almost impossible to overstate Twain’s place in American history — if not on the world stage.
He was “the most famous American writer of all time” and “remains the title-holder this morning,” Tom Wolfe wrote last month in The New York Times. “Later American literary stars like Hemingway, Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis and John Steinbeck, Nobel Prize-winners one and all, never had more than a spoonful of the great gouts of fame that Twain…enjoyed everywhere in the world.”
When he died, The New York Times wrote he “was the greatest American humorist of his age. It is certain that his contemporary fame abroad was equal to his fame at home. All Europe recognized his genius, the English people appreciated him at his own worth.
“From The Jumping Frog to the Diary of Adam everything that came from his pen was eagerly read and heartily enjoyed by multitudes.”
In that piece, the Times also pointed out that “posterity will be left to decide his relative position.”
Each year they give out The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which this year is going to Tina Fey, former star of Saturday Night Live and current creator and star of 30 Rock. While Googling will give you one of the reasons why I think this is great news, the fact is that, like Twain, Fey is a brilliant satirist unwilling to be boxed in by conventional wisdom.
It’s been 175 years since Twain was born and 100 years since he died.
The prize named for him going to Fey, the long-awaited publication of his autobiography… Twain’s still a big star casting a big shadow.