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Lighting Out for the Territory: How Samuel Clemens Headed West and Became Mark Twain

Roy Morris Jr.
Publisher Simon & Schuster  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.75 inches
ISBN 9781416598671
Pages/Publication Date 282/2011
Daedalus Item Code 20694
This item is not available.
With a pitch-perfect blend of appreciative humor and critical authority, literary biographer Roy Morris sheds new light on a crucial but still largely unexamined period in Mark Twain's life: a six-year odyssey begun in 1861 that took Samuel Clemens from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Hawaii, with lengthy stopovers in Virginia City, Nevada, and San Francisco. Morris carefully sorts fact from fiction—never an easy task when dealing with Twain—to tell the story of a young genius finding his voice in the ramshackle mining camps, boomtowns, and newspaper offices of the wild and woolly West, while the Civil War rages half a continent away. Using Twain's own words, Morris follows his subject on a winding journey of self discovery filled with high adventure and low comedy, as Clemens/Twain dodges Indians and gunfighters, receives marriage advice from Brigham Young, burns down a mountain with a frying pan, gets claim-jumped by rival miners, narrowly avoids fighting a duel, hikes across the floor of an active volcano, becomes one of the first white men to try the ancient Hawaiian sport of surfing, and writes his first great literary success, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."

"In Lighting Out, Morris recounts how an aimless Sam Clemens—weary of futile maneuvers with inept Confederate guerrillas—gladly accepts an invitation from his brother to accompany him to the Wild West. Though soon disabused of his dreams of striking it rich with a mining pick, Clemens discovers a different fortune with a journalist's pen. Readers follow Clemens as he alternately amuses and enrages his readers with the barbed humor that becomes his trademark. Morris carefully investigates just how that humor first appears under the byline of one 'Mark Twain,' concluding that Twain's own explanation of his nom de plume—just like his extended frontier memoirs in Roughing It—is artistically brilliant but factually unreliable. Readers will appreciate the way Morris exposes Twain's 'stretchers' without deflating his irrepressible humor."—Booklist

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