Mark Twain's works are a living national treasury, yet somehow, beneath the vast river of literature that he left behind, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the man who became Mark Twain, has receded from view, leaving us with only faint and often trivialized remnants of his towering personality. Here, author Powers recreates the 19th century's vital landscapes and tumultuous events while restoring the human being at their center. Clemens left his frontier boyhood in Missouri for a life on the Mississippi during the golden age of steamboats. He skirted the Civil War before taking off for an uproarious newspaper career in Wild West Nevada. He took the East Coast by storm, witnessing the extremes of wealth and poverty of New York City and the Gilded Age (which he named). He traveled to Europe on the first American pleasure cruise and revitalized travel writing. He wooed and won his lifelong devoted wife, yet quietly pined for the girl who was his first crush and whom he would re-encounter decades later. He became the toast of Europe and a celebrity who toured the globe. The man who emerges in Powers's brilliant telling is both the magnetic, acerbic, and hilarious Mark Twain of myth and a devoted friend, husband, and father; a whirlwind of optimism and restless energy; and above all, a wide-eared and wide-eyed observer who absorbed every sight and sound, and poured it into his characters, plots, jokes, businesses, and life. Mark Twain left us our greatest voice. Sam Clemens left us one of our most full and American of lives.--From publisher description.
In this work then Powers has to reveal the Twain of the biography and allow Twain to be accepted on the basis of his life. The work then is mostly successful because Powers allows Twain to shine through. He mentions, but does not depreciate from Clemens the man, or Twain the writer.