Mark Twain Delayed

Above: The currently sought-after edition and two earlier versions of Twain’s Autobiography

Wondering why you haven’t received your orders of the Mark Twain autobiography?

The New York Times reports that the publisher, the University of California Press, did not anticipate the demand. The same is true for booksellers, who are discovering, to their regret, that it has become the desired gift book of the season.

According to the NYT, the original print run was 50,000 (which probably seemed aggressive at the time). The U. of Cal. Press uses a small printer in Michigan that has been working overtime to produce 30,000 copies a week and has engaged larger trucks so they can transport more copies in each shipment to warehouses.

In libraries, holds are growing and outpacing the other surprise hits of the season. They are slightly higher than Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra and the Booker winner, The Finkler Question, but not quite as high as Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken.

Part of the allure of the book is that the autobiography was supposedly held back for 100 years. But the director of the Mark Twain Project, Robert Hirst, told NPR recently,

In spite of these efforts at suppression, however, most of the autobiography has surfaced over the years, and the supposed “embargo” has only led to increased interest in and sales for the book.

Hirst also says that the reader “might find [this edition] a bit of a slow read at times” because  it,

…includes the numerous false starts Twain made before he settled into the dictation….It is heavy slogging. But I would recommend what Mark Twain would recommend: If you’re bored with it, SKIP.

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