When volume one of Autobiography of Mark Twain hit stores last year, it seemed like half of America found a Christmas gift for their parents. Never mind that most of it had been released before -- the unexpurgated edition included all the stuff Twain instructed his heirs to leave out until 100 years after his death, feeling it too tangy for 1900s consumption. In Twain's words: "All sound and sane expressions of opinion must be left out. There may be a market for that kind of wares a century from now. There is no hurry. Wait and see. Well, the wait is over, and the market is huge, especially due to early reviews that had Twain railing against Wall Street and calling American soldiers "uniformed assassins." True, Garrison Keillor demolished the book in the New York Times, calling it a "fraud" and a "dreary meander of a memoir," and likened reading it to hiking "across the hard, dusty ground of a famous mans reminiscences," but that only makes us think, Hey, what's going on with Keillor? Though maybe it's also why our parents have yet to comment on our thoughtful gift. It also makes us think we might not have to read the entire behemoth ourselves, and that An Evening of Mark Twain with Benjamin Griffin is the compromise we're waiting for. As one of the editors of the book, Griffin had one of the most satisfying jobs in letters: restoring the full measure of piss and vinegar to the most iconic voice in American literature -- which may go on long at times, it must be said.
Thu., March 24, 7 p.m., 2011