A Century After His Death, Twain is Back Atop of the Best-Seller List

Oct 20, 2010 at 7:30 am

October has been a rough month for Jonathan Franzen. First his glasses got stolen. Then he didn't get nominated for the National Book Award. And now Freedom has been overtaken and surpassed on the Amazon best-seller list by volume one of The Autobiography of Mark Twain. Yeah, Franzen's been spanked by a guy who's been dead for 100 years. That's got to hurt.

Now a few facts. Twain's Autobiography currently ranks at number 7 on Amazon's Literature & Fiction list, where Freedom languishes at (unlucky?) 13. It's also number 1 in Biography & Memoirs, which means Twain is beating out Keith Richards, Mickey Mantle, Susan Boyle, George Washington and Condoleeza Rice.

Not bad for a dead dude from Missouri -- though a writer for the community site Examiner.com mistakenly tries to claim Twain as a Californian. No dice!

The Autobiography isn't slated for release until November 15, but already its publisher, the University of California Press, has increased its initial printing from 50,000 to 75,000 copies.

Though the Autobiography has been published before, this time is special because it includes all the dirt that Twain didn't want his contemporaries to read -- hence the request that its publication be delayed for a full century. It's also been re-edited; the editor of the earlier editions used a conventional cradle-to-grave format that Twain had explicitly rejected in favor of a free-form exploration of his "whole frank mind".

"From the first, second, third and fourth editions all sound and sane expressions of opinion must be left out," Twain told his editors and heirs. "There may be a market for that kind of wares a century from now. There is no hurry. Wait and see."

Now we're about to find out.

And maybe this resurgence of Twain will revive some interest in his board game? Here's hoping...