The Mark Twain Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Works
Edited by Shelley Fisher Fishkin
A century and a half of the best writing about America’s quintessential writer.
Read an exclusive interview with volume editor Shelley Fisher Fishkin (PDF, 148K)
Read an excerpt, Sterling Brown on Jim in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (PDF, 63K)
Read an excerpt, George Bernard Shaw's letter to Samuel L. Clemens (PDF, 55K)
For William Dean Howells, Mark Twain was “the Lincoln of our literature”; for William Faulkner, he was “the first truly American writer,” and for Eugene O’Neill, “the true father of American literature.” Ernest Hemingway famously asserted that “all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.” During his lifetime and in the hundred years since his death, Mark Twain has been one of the most beloved and widely read of authors, not just in America but around the world. He has been especially cherished by other writers, who have drawn inspiration from many different aspects of his work.
The Mark Twain Anthology brings together the words of over 60 writers, from his earliest reviewers to today, probing the many facets of Mark Twain: his incomparable humor, his revolutionary use of vernacular language, his exploration of the realities of American life, his irreverence and skepticism, his profound grappling with issues of race, his fearless opposition to the injustices and outrages of an imperialistic age.
The range of voices is extraordinarily diverse, a tribute to the diversity and complexity of Twain’s art. During his lifetime Twain was reviewed, interviewed, and assessed by writers as different as Lafcadio Hearn, José Martí, Rudyard Kipling, and George Bernard Shaw. They were joined, in the century that followed, by G. K. Chesterton, H. L. Mencken, Jorge Luis Borges, Theodore Dreiser, George Orwell, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, Ralph Ellison, and many others, with recent commentary by David Bradley, Erica Jong, Toni Morrison, Gore Vidal, Kurt Vonnegut, Dick Gregory, Min Jin Lee, and Roy Blount Jr.
Of special interest is Twain’s international impact. The Mark Twain Anthology presents a broad selection of responses to Twain from Europe, Asia, and Latin America, many of the pieces translated for the first time. The book also includes a selection of visual tributes to Twain (by artists ranging from James Montgomery Flagg to Jean Cocteau to Chuck Jones) and a sampler of shorter comments by individuals as varied as Friedrich Nietzsche, Harry S. Truman, Richard Pryor, Gertrude Stein, and Charles Darwin.
Shelley Fisher Fishkin, volume editor, is Professor of English and Director of American Studies at Stanford University. She is the author or editor of 33 books on Mark Twain including Lighting Out for the Territory: Reflections on Mark Twain and American Culture; Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African-American Voices; Mark Twain’s Book of Animals; and the 29-volume Oxford Mark Twain. She has served as president of the American Studies Association and of the Mark Twain Circle of America, and was a producer of Mark Twain’s Is He Dead? on Broadway. She is a founding editor of the Journal of Transnational American Studies.
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