Was he "... the avuncular man who told stories"? or an acerbic opinionator with a penchant for self-destruction?
100 years after his death, released only now at his request, we have his complete unabridged "Autobiography" in which he refers to American soldiers in the Spanish-American War as “uniformed assassins..."
He is similarly unsparing about the plutocrats and Wall Street luminaries of his day, who he argued had destroyed the innate generosity of Americans and replaced it with greed and selfishness. “The world believes that the elder Rockefeller is worth a billion dollars,” Twain observes. “He pays taxes on two million and a half.”On critics, Twain says: “I believe that the trade of critic, in literature, music, and the drama, is the most degraded of all trades, and that it has no real value,” Twain writes. “However, let it go,” he adds. “It is the will of God that we must have critics, and missionaries, and Congressmen, and humorists, and we must bear the burden.”The material in Volume 1 that was omitted from previous editions amounts to “maybe as little as 5 percent of the dictations,” said Harriet E. Smith, chief editor of the autobiography. “But there will be a much higher percentage in Volumes 2 and 3,” each expected to be about 600 pages.Editor, Robert Hirst says: “I’ve read this manuscript a million times, and it still makes me laugh. This is a guy who made literature out of talk, and the autobiography is the culmination, the pinnacle of that impulse.”
This will be on my list to read in the coming months.