Mark Twain

Mark Twain

3.35 (45 ratings by Goodreads)
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Mark Twain towered above the American literary landscape. With a worldwide fame greater than that of statesmen, scientists, or entertainers, Twain was in his own words "the most conspicuous man on the planet." Now, in this wonderful recounting of his career, Larzer Ziff offers an incisive, illuminating look at one of the giants of American letters. Mark Twain emerges in this book as something of a paradox. His humor made him rich and famous, but he was unhappy with the role of humorist. He satirized the rapacious economic practices of his society, yet was caught up in those very practices himself. He was a literary genius who revolutionized the national literature, yet was unable to resist whatever quirky notion or joke that crossed his mind, often straying from his plot or contradicting his theme. Ziff offers a lively account of Twain's early years, explores all his major fiction, and concludes with a consideration of his craftsmanship and his strength as a cultural critic. He offers particularly telling insight into Twain's travel writings, providing for example an insightful account of Following the Equator, perhaps Twain's most underrated work. Throughout the book, Ziff examines Twain's writings in light of the literary cultures of his day-from frontier humorists to Matthew Arnold-and of parallel literary works of his time-comparing, for example, A Connecticut Yankee with major utopian works of the same decade. Thus the book is both a work of literary criticism and of cultural history. Compact and sparkling, here then is an invaluable introduction to Mark Twain, capturing the humor and the contradictions of America's most beloved more

Product details

  • Hardback | 144 pages
  • 142.2 x 210.8 x 17.8mm | 272.16g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195170199
  • 9780195170191
  • 916,167

Review quote

"Impossible to put down-and the best single introduction to the complex force that was Samuel Clemens-Larzer Ziff's Mark Twain is a tour de force of insight, wit, and brevity: an illumination, and a pleasure, from start to finish. -Brenda Wineapple, author of Hawthorne: A Life "Larzer Ziff has a critical method, the one recommended by T.S. Eliot, that of being very intelligent. He employs it again in his new book, a 'brief life' of Mark Twain. It is a web of perceptions, constructed with notable verve; no self-indulgence, no fuss, one act of cognition leading firmly but not aggressively to the next. There is enough detail to keep the story moving along and the critical assessments at every moment justified. A continuously vivid book, unfailingly just to its complex subject. Splendidly written, as one has many reasons to expect of its author. A sentence by Ziff is worth more than a paragraph by most other scholar-critics. 'Tom Sawyer is a memory; Huckleberry Finn a recognition.' That's worth making a note of, and is typical of Ziff's command, a style without waste." -Denis Donoghue, University Professor and Henry James Chair of English and American Letters at New York Universityshow more

About Larzer Ziff

Larzer Ziff is Research Professor at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of six books on American literary culture, including The American 1890s, which won the Christian Gauss Award, and he is the editor of works by Emerson, Thoreau, Stephen Crane, Melville, Hawthorne, and Dreiser. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and more

Rating details

45 ratings
3.35 out of 5 stars
5 22% (10)
4 22% (10)
3 33% (15)
2 13% (6)
1 9% (4)
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