Mark Twain: A Life by Ron Powers is an intimidating work not only from its physical weight (3 pounds of text) but more from the iconic burden of the man. Mark Twain, as he himself wrote, lived “in the midst of world history”, charging through an epoch of change, realizing many of his dreams, and yet suffering through as much misery. He captained steamboats at the outset of the American Civil War, mined for silver in Nevada during the Comstock Lode, and went on speaking tours world-wide, all the while developing the “American” voice in literature, a life famously beginning and ending as Haley’s Comet appeared in the sky. He was a witty, demanding man and deeply reflective, offering rebukes to governmental policies that would ring true even today. “I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.” But most interesting of all, he had plans for many unrealized books, including a follow-up to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain wrote in his journal: Huck comes back, 60 years old, from nobody knows where & crazy. Thinks he is a boy again & scans every face for Tom and Becky.
Tom comes, at last, 60 from wandering the world & tends Huck & together they talk the old times; both are desolate, life has been a failure, all that was lovable, all that was beautiful is under the mould. They die together.
Sadly, Twain outlived much of his immediate family, surviving his wife and three of four children.