The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Becoming Mark Twain

"White Heat" book cover.

White Heat book cover.

Book cover courtesy of the Mark Twain Papers, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

When I think of Mark Twain, three bushy/unruly images come to mind: white mustache, white eyebrows, and white Einstein hair. But now, having worked on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Big Read audio guide, and having listened to scholars discuss his work, I also heavily associate Mark Twain with spirituals and his unique upbringing surrounded by slaves on his uncle's farm. Mark Twain biographer, Ron Powers, among others, sheds light on this legendary character of American letters. Part of this legend includes the nautical significance of "Mark Twain" and why he chose that as his pseudonym. [4:28]

[audio:http://bigreadblog.arts.gov//audio/BecomingTwain.mp3]

Excerpts from the spirituals used courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways.

[transcript]

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