The First False Starts

The editors have included a variety of false starts by Twain on his autobiography. I’ve decided a sensible way to go about the next part of this project is to read the note on a text included in the volume, then read the text. 

The first two of these are about an investment by his father that never came to fruition, then a brief description of Florida, Missouri. For a moment the voice of the storyteller Twain emerges in that one — a church service interrupted by pigs and dogs — but he begins to discuss the costs of things then versus “now” and never finds his way back. I’ve come to accept that because Twain dictated much of these, and because he allowed himself a stream-of-consciousness style of narration, there will be a Grandpa Simpson quality to many of them.

The false start on an autobiography beginning with an investment by his father before Twain was even born echoes a comment in the notes about a planned project Twain never wrote, an autobiography of an alternate Twain who was a failure at every step (conceived when Twain had well established himself as a tremendously successful author and orator). What if his own writing, like his father’s investments, had been full of promises that were never realized?

He seems preoccupied with financials in both of these false starts, both as the measure of a man’s life and an index of the times. 

Reposted from Two Fathoms

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