paper trail

Apr 21, 2010 @ 6:00:00 am

"Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company," Mark Twain quipped; we wonder who he's hobnobbing with today, the centenary of his death. Twain, a high school dropout, draft-dodger, and rascal to the last, was not just any American, he was, as he liked to say, "the American.”

From Collier's Weekly, a 1910 verse account of his last day, and from the New York Times, an absorbing display of his library, where you can peruse his acerbic marginalia. Equally cutting is Gary Indiana's take on recent books about Twain's last decade.

Twain biographer Ron Powers writes of how a chance encounter with a fourteen year-old girl named Laura Wright enchanted Twain for the rest of his life. Elsewhere, PETA details how Twain was among the first notable animal rights activists, and the San Francisco Chronicle offers a roundup of new Twain titles.

And there's Twain's autobiography to look forward to, dubbed the "blackmail dossier," and said to run at nearly 5,000 pages, it will soon be published for the first time by the University of California, now that Twain's command for a one-hundred year embargo has expired.

You will never be able to do this with a Kindle, though we invite you to try.

This year's feel good story for indie-publishing, the success of small-press book Tinkers, which had a 2000% sales bump this week after winning a Pulitzer, makes Slate's Marion Meaker feel piqued; to him it illustrates "the failure of independent bookstores and their complete loss of traction in the marketplace."

Victor Lavalle reads a piece about long-distance love from Granta's sex issue, which arrives in bookshops this week.