MARK TWAIN: His Life in Virginia City, Nevada by George Williams

MARK TWAIN: His Life in Virginia City, Nevada

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A spiritless biography of Twain during his newspaper days that's full of meaningless generalizations and hollow praise. The book recounts the years 1862-65, in which Mark Twain gave up on silver mining and became a journalist. It provides much information about The Territorial Enterprise, and Twain's associates on the paper. It retells all the stories familiar to Twain readers: the Massacre at Dutch Nick's hoax, the visit of Artemus Ward, the fake meerschaum pipe, and the duel. One potentially useful section provides current maps and instructions for visiting the sites of Twain's days in Nevada. Beware, however: the author describes what is obviously a tourist trap as though it were Venice and the World's Fair rolled up in one. As biography, it is preposterous, making every decision seem like a fateful conversion, every event, an irreversible turning point. Williams implies, for example, that without the influence of editor Joe Goodman or fellow wag Don DeQuille, Twain would never have become a great humorist. As for scholarship, the author seldom refers to or indulges in it. The worst crime of all is portraying Twain as pious. He may have been a Christian, but in a style all his own, and with no need for apologies offered by modern-day Bible thumpers. Twain has inspired a deluge of books, but this surely ranks among the least significant. What other book acknowledges the help of a handwriting analyst, for ""special insight to [Twain's] mind and character?"" It is readable only because it is full of two-and three-page quotes from Roughing It, Sketches Old and New, the Enterprise files, and Twain's letters. Thanks be for that.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1986
Publisher: Tree by the River (4375 Highland Pl., Riverside, CA 92506)