For a man who liked being called the American, Mark Twain spent a surprising amount of time outside the continental United States. Biographer Roy Morris, Jr., focuses on the dozen years Twain spent overseas and on the popular travel books—The Innocents Abroad, A Tramp Abroad, and Following the Equator—he wrote about his adventures. Unintimidated by Old World sophistication and unafraid to travel to less developed parts of the globe, Twain encouraged American readers to follow him around the world at the dawn of mass tourism, when advances in transportation made leisure travel possible for an emerging middle class. In so doing, he helped lead Americans into the twentieth century and guided them toward more cosmopolitan views.
In his first book, The Innocents Abroad (1869), Twain introduced readers to the “American Vandal,” a brash, unapologetic visitor to foreign lands, unimpressed with the local ambiance but eager to appropriate any souvenir that could be carried off. He adopted this persona throughout his career, even after he grew into an international celebrity who dined with the German Kaiser, traded quips with the king of England, gossiped with the Austrian emperor, and negotiated with the president of Transvaal for the release of war prisoners. American Vandal presents an unfamiliar Twain: not the bred-in-the-bone Midwesterner we associate with Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer but a global citizen whose exposure to other peoples and places influenced his evolving positions on race, war, and imperialism, as both he and America emerged on the world stage.
Morris is a first-rate tour guide. He knows his subject, cites other authorities with respect and presents a good deal of information with easygoing, professional smoothness. [An] entertaining and—despite its title—eminently civilized book.
American Vandal provides a fresh account of the great satirist’s life and work by arguing that his world view was the product of experience that was unusual for a popular American writer in this period. It offers us an account of the dozen years in total which Twain spent overseas, part of a life of travel that included twenty-nine transatlantic crossings, excursions across India, New Zealand, the Mediterranean and Caribbean… One strength of American Vandal is that Morris places Twain’s travel writings at the heart of his achievement.
If you want a guide through [Twain’s] travelogues or through the experiences that produced them, then you could not find a better one than Twain biographer Roy Morris Jr. He is not merely well-informed about his subject, he is truly attuned to the mind and sensibility of the man… American Vandal shows a consistently sure and wise touch.
Morris writes smoothly and engagingly about Mark Twain’s travels, through life as much as through foreign scenes.
In this vibrant, fresh look at the venerable writer, historian Morris traces Twain’s journeys and his evolving perspective on world politics and peoples… A brisk narrative and sensitive insights make this book a delight.
For readers not familiar with Mark Twain’s travel literature, Morris will open up a new facet of his extensive writing career… This lively overview provides an accessible entry point to the lesser‐known works of a great American writer.
Only an accomplished storyteller should dare to take up the life of our most revered raconteur, and Morris measures up. There is no shortage of Twain biographies; one as well researched and as well told as this one deserves to be among them.
Morris effectively evokes both the personal and political realities behind Twain’s fictions and semi-fictions to demonstrate how Twain himself debunked then-prevalent myths of travel and of national character. American Vandal gives readers a fresh view of Mark Twain while casting a revealing light on American identity.
- 288 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
From this author
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.