The thirteen essays in this collection combine to offer a complex and deeply nuanced picture of Samuel Clemens. With the purpose of straying from the usual notions of Clemens (most notably the Clemens/Twain split that has ruled Twain scholarship for over thirty years), the editors have assembled contributions from a wide range of Twain scholars. As a whole, the collection argues that it is time we approach Clemens not as a shadow behind the literary persona but as a complex and intricate creator of stories, a creator who is deeply embedded in the political events of his time and who used a mix of literary, social, and personal experience to fuel the movements of his pen.
The essays illuminate Clemens's connections with people and events not usually given the spotlight and introduce us to Clemens as a man deeply embroiled in the process of making literary gold out of everyday experiences. From Clemens's wonderings on race and identity to his looking to family and domesticity as defining experiences, from musings on the language that Clemens used so effectively to consideration of the images and processes of composition, these essays challenge long-held notions of why Clemens was so successful and so influential a writer. While that search itself is not new, the varied approaches within this collection highlight markedly inventive ways of reading the life and work of Samuel Clemens.