Saturday, June 09, 2012

283 (2012 #28). Chapters from My Autobiography

by Mark Twain,
read by Bronson Pinchot

Twain began dictating (most) of his autobiography in 1906, but stipulated that it not be published until 100 years after his death in April, 1910.  Indeed, the first volume of that massive publication has recently come out.

However, Twain did select 25 extracts from his dictations and other papers to be published in the North American Review from September 1906 through December 1907.  That is what is included in this audiobook.

Twain doesn't tell his story chronologically.  Rather (from the introduction), he uses

a form and method whereby the past and the present are constantly brought face to face, resulting in contrasts which newly fire up the interest all along, like contact of flint with steel. Moreover, this autobiography of mine does not select from my life its showy episodes, but deals mainly in the common experiences which go to make up the life of the average human being, because these episodes are of a sort which he is familiar with in his own life, and in which he sees his own life reflected and set down in print. The usual, conventional autobiographer seems to particularly hunt out those occasions in his career when he came into contact with celebrated persons, whereas his contacts with the uncelebrated were just as interesting to him, and would be to his reader, and were vastly more numerous than his collisions with the famous.

This, according to Twain (in "The Latest Attempt," one of the prefaces written to introduce the final form of the autobiography), is "the right way to do an Autobiography":

start it at no particular time of your life; wander at your free will all over your life; talk only about the thing which interests you for the moment; drop it the moment its interest threatens to pale, and turn your talk upon the new and more interesting thing that has intruded itself into your mind meantime.

Indeed, this audiobook only touches on Twain's life, but mostly focuses on amusing anecdotes, and his family.  Most interesting (and emotive) are the sections on the death of his daughter Susy at age 24 in 1896, and Twain's inclusion of excerpts Susy wrote about her father in a biography she attempted at age 14.

Actor Bronson Pinchot is the perfect narrator for this audiobook - he applies an accent that makes you think Twain might be the one speaking.  The audiobook comes with a bonus disc containing a (190-page) PDF e-book of the contents, as well as a reading of Twain's The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.

© Amanda Pape - 2012

[This audiobook was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

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