There’s plenty of vinegar here but plenty of the homespun and funny Twain as well. Essential for serious students of his...

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN, VOLUME 1

THE COMPLETE AND AUTHORITATIVE EDITION

A century after his death, the great American writer and controversialist speaks plainly—and sometimes not so nicely—from beyond the grave.

Earlier editions of this autobiography appeared throughout the 20th century, but Twain instructed that the unexpurgated version not appear for a century to spare the feelings not just of individuals, but also of their grandchildren. The great-grandchildren are on their own, however, and here Twain lights in with delight on unscrupulous publishers, swindling partners, unethical corporate barons and politicians. As he announced in planning his memoirs, which he began in 1870 and worked on until nearly the end of his life, Twain was not going to bind himself to the rules of chronology (and perhaps not those of the strict truth, either) but instead, would indulge his storytelling wont, being “as digressive and discursive as he likes,” in the words of the volume editors. That is just so, and Twain ambles here and there, from childhood to reminiscences of his friendship with U.S. Grant, recording his adventures and misadventures and his wide travels. From this volume, we learn, for instance, that England was woefully behind the times in telephony in 1896 (“Years ago there was a telephone system in England, but in the country parts it is about dead, and what is left of it in London has no value”), that he was 10 when he thrilled to the accomplishments of the Antarctic explorer Charles Wilkes, and that Twain was a resolute and angry anti-imperialist and a scourge of politicians more fiery than even his image of old would have it—even though, his editors note, he was a Republican as early as 1868.

There’s plenty of vinegar here but plenty of the homespun and funny Twain as well. Essential for serious students of his work and readable and revealing for all its surrounding scholarly apparatus.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-520-26719-0

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2013

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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