Mainly the Truth
Interviews with Mark Twain
Studies in American Literary Realism and Naturalism
344 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.90 in, 22
- Published: March 2009
Mainly the Truth: Interviews with Mark Twain is a collection of the most colorful and vivacious interviews that Mark Twain gave to newspapers and reporters throughout his career. A master storyteller and raconteur, Twain understood the value of publicity, and these interviews capture Twain both at his most lively and in moments of candor and introspection.
In his interviews, Twain discussed such topical issues as hazing and civil service reform, and more enduring concerns, such as his lecture style, his writings, government corruption, humor, his bankruptcy, racism, women’s suffrage, imperialism, international copyright, and his impressions of other writers (Howells, Gorky, George Bernard Shaw, Tennyson, Longfellow, Kipling, Hawthorne, Dickens, Bret Harte, among others). These interviews are both oral performances in their own right and a new basis for evaluating contemporary responses to Twain’s writings.
"Scharnhorst's treasury of Mark Twain interviews is solid scholarship that can go to the beach. A brief, sharply focused introduction identifies the value of Twain's interviews in clarifying his politics, ethics, and social values, and--later in the book--his ideas on composition and humor. Among the book's highlights are Twain's positions (couched in his own comic vernacular) on Indians, race, the Philippine War (a very interesting entry indeed since his position was not shared), and Maxim Gorky's sexual miscues. A complete index helps readers find contemporaneous issues and characters. The chronological order tracks an era, lacing it with vintage Twain, so one can profit from reading the book straight through. But one can also dip into it at random: the interviews are short, self-contained, and easy reading. As pleasure reading, this is trenchant fun. As a scholarly work, the book has much to offer; e.g., Twain's statements to Australian and New Zealand reporters open up his positions on race, minorities, and his fiction. Nicely illuminating Ron Powers's outstanding Mark Twain: A Life (CH, Apr'06, 43-4536), this book offers material that is fresh and funny and at the same time important to scholars. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers."
"Almost like having a portable microphone pinned to Mark Twain's coat lapel. Better than any biography or collection of letters for a glimpse into Twain's REAL opinions about books, personalities, and issues. Persevering reporters repeatedly catch Twain off guard and in exactly the right frame of mind to talk candidly, with deeply revealing results. . . . The most valuable window into Twain's psyche to appear in many, many years."--Alan Gribben
"Mainly the Truth takes up a neglected and fascinating side of that multi-dimensional man known as Mark Twain--the conversational side. It is an impressive piece of scholarship and a joy to read."--Thomas Quirk
"As Gary Scharnhorst explains in his fine introduction to Mainly the Truth, a collection that reprints about half of the newspaper interviews Twain gave on his many travels, Twain knew 'the power of the press and when and how to talk with reporters.' . . . Even though the interviews assembled by Scharnhorst are no substitute for Twain's mature fiction, they contain useful materials for Twain lovers. Reading them, we hear a careful, pause-rich voice discuss creativity, politics, and human fallability."--Larry T. Shillock for The Bloomsbury Review