Also of interest ... in new titles on Mark Twain
Mark Twain: Man in White by Michael Shelden; Mark Twain’s Other Woman by Laura Skandera Trombley; Mark Twain by Jerome Loving; Lighting Out for the Territory by Roy Morris Jr.
Mark Twain: Man in Whiteby Michael Shelden (Random House, $30)A century after Twain’s death, his final years have received a fresh look, said Janet Maslin in The New York Times. Most previous biographers have painted the septuagenarian author as a bitter man, but Michael Shelden sees a widower who shook off grief to don an attention-grabbing white suit and “enjoy the perks of his celebrity.” Shelden can seem “dangerously oversympathetic” to his subject, but Twain packed in enough travel and quipping at the end that he makes pleasant company here.
Mark Twain’s Other Woman by Laura Skandera Trombley (Knopf, $28)Laura Trombley’s Twain is a much uglier old man than Shelden’s, said Peter Rowe in The San Diego Union-Tribune. Relying on the journals of a personal secretary whom Twain eventually dismissed, Trombley presents her subject as a self-absorbed grouch who angrily turned against his adoring aide (the “other woman” of this book’s title). Ultimately, the portrait seems unfair: While “other biographers have noted Twain’s fondness for alcohol, Trombley’s Twain may be the most intoxicated on record.”
Mark Twainby Jerome Loving (Univ of Calif., $35)“If you’re looking for a strong, readable, authoritative, perceptive biography in which Mark Twain and his world come alive, you couldn’t do much better than this one,” said Martin Levin in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Recent biographers have gone overboard trying to stuff the legend’s peripatetic life between two covers, but Loving does it in just 431 pages. He’s an astute reader of Twain’s work, and his “brisk, episodic chapters” read surprisingly like the work of Twain himself.
Lighting Out for the Territory by Roy Morris Jr. (Simon & Schuster, $26)Twain “wrote memorably” about his Western adventures, and so does Roy Morris, said Colette Bancroft in the St. Petersburg, Fla., Times. Still a teenager when he left Missouri, Twain “found his authorial voice and much of his subject matter” as he traveled with pen in hand through the Nevada Territory, on to San Francisco, and over to Hawaii. “Morris provides a more linear and comprehensive account” than Twain did, but loses little of his subject’s sense of fun.