A scholar accompanies Twain on his journey around the world
In Mark Twain, the World, and Me: “Following the Equator,” Then and Now, Susan K. Harris follows Twain’s last lecture tour as he wound his way through the British Empire in 1895–1896. Deftly blending history, biography, literary criticism, reportage, and travel memoir, Harris gives readers a unique take on one of America’s most widely studied writers.
Structured as a series of interlocking essays written in the first person, this engaging volume draws on Twain’s insights into the histories and cultures of Australia, India, and South Africa and weaves them into timely reflections on the legacies of those countries today. Harris offers meditations on what Twain’s travels mean for her as a scholar, a white woman, a Jewish American, a wife, and a mother. By treating topics as varied as colonial rule, the clash between indigenous and settler communities, racial and sexual “inbetweenness,” and species decimation, Harris reveals how the world we know grew out of the colonial world Twain encountered. Her essays explore issues of identity that still trouble us today: respecting race and gender, preserving nature, honoring indigenous peoples, and respecting religious differences.
Me, World, Twain: An Introduction
2. Pollution: A Narrative
3. Money Matters, Or, Gifts for the Dead
4. Will the Real Savages Please Stand Up?
6. Staring at Animals
“Writing with great a understanding and appreciation of Twain, Harris shows how the issues that engaged him in his travels still invite discussion today. This insightful book opens a window on a person, and a past, that continues to resonate.”
“In Mark Twain, the World, and Me, Susan Harris shows great skill in describing both the pull and the personal stakes that brought her into such a sustained, fruitful engagement with Mark Twain—a cultural icon who seems to radiate ‘unlikeness’ with regard to her own roots and upbringing. There’s no self-indulgence here; instead, we see the high-risk adventure that informs the best literary scholarship.”
—Bruce Michelson, author of Printer’s Devil: Mark Twain and the American Publishing Revolution
“This enormously compelling memoir of Harris’s attempt to retrace Twain’s travels during his 1895–1986 round-the-world lecture tour is more than simply an engaging work of creative nonfiction, it might just be the best book-length work of scholarship yet written on Twain’s Following the Equator.”
—Joseph Csicsila, coauthor of Heretical Fictions: Religion in the Literature of Mark Twain
“In this engaging memoir, Susan Kumin Harris tracks Mark Twain around the globe, reflecting upon her own story and identity to provide new insight into Twain’s fascinating and contradictory mind. As a Jewish woman married to an African American man, Harris is uniquely positioned to reconsider the modern relevance of Twain’s writings on religion, the fluidity of race and gender, and more as she retraces his journeys from Australia to India to South Africa. It’s a trip worth taking.”
—Andrew Beahrs, author of Twain’s Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens