Benjamin Griffin (Mark Twain’s Civil War) at University Press Books in Berkeley

Thursday Dec 05 2019   5:30 PM
University Press Books   2430 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA  map

Benjamin Griffin, Associate Editor of the Mark Twain Project at UC Berkeley, will be at University Press Books in Berkeley to discuss his book, Mark Twain’s Civil War.

Mark Twain’s “Private History of a Campaign That Failed” is well known, but never before has it been fully placed in the context of Samuel Clemens’s life and Civil War history.

Twenty years after Appomattox, Twain published a highly fictionalized account of his two-week stint in the Confederate Army. Ostensibly this told what he did (or, in his own words, why he “didn’t do anything”) in the war; but the article was criticized as disingenuous, and it did little to address a growing curiosity about the nature of his brief military service. The complex political situation in Missouri during the early months of the war and Twain’s genius for transforming life into fiction have tended to obstruct historical understanding of “The Private History”; interpretations of Samuel Clemens’s enthusiastic enlistment, sedulous avoidance of combat, and abandonment of the rebellion have ranged from condemnation to celebration.

Aided by Twain’s notes and correspondence― transcribed and published for the first time in this book―Benjamin Griffin of UC Berkeley’s Mark Twain Project offers a new and cogent analysis, particularly of Clemens’s multiple revisions of his own war experience. A necessity for any Twain bookshelf, Mark Twain’s Civil War sheds light on a great writer’s changeable and challenging position on the deadliest of American conflicts.  The book includes a critical text, explanatory notes, and a 78-page introduction drawing on the holdings of the Mark Twain Papers and a dozen other collections.

For more information:

Benjamin Griffin is an editor at the Mark Twain Project. A native of Berkeley, he was educated at the University of California and at Cambridge University. He specializes in Mark Twain and in the theory and practice of scholarly editing.