Like so many people before and after him, Samuel Clemens found himself in the West. But Mark Twain, the character who emerged after Clemenss almost six-year sojourn along the frontier, was very unlike anyone whod gone before or has come after. He remains Americas best-loved, most influential writer and advanced embellisher. In Lighting Out for the Territory (the title comes from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in which Huck figures its time to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest or risk getting sivilized), literary biographer Roy Morris Jr. unravels all the yarns that Twain spun about this period of his life, and comes up with the real story or close enough of How Samuel Clemens Headed West and Became Mark Twain. He details Clemenss very checkered career by 25, hed already been a riverboat pilot and follows him to the mining towns of Nevada, describing the journey in language as entertaining as his subject might use. Clemens came back to the cabin one day, grouchy and dispirited, after shoveling dirt down his neck on a little rubbishy claim and found a letter offering him a $25-a-week writing job. Eureka! he cried. He had struck gold at last, albeit of a very different grade than the kind he had been digging for all these months.
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And Morris has struck gold with this extremely entertaining book, which proves that when it came to his own life, even Mark Twain couldnt improve on the truth. Morris will be at the Tattered Cover at 2526 East Colfax Avenue tonight at 7:30 p.m. The program is free; for more information, go to www.tatteredcover.com.
Wed., March 24, 7:30 p.m., 2010