I’m swagging the weight of the book –it’s heavier than Willow, who logs in at a feline supermodel seven pounds. It could work as a bookbinder’s press. Dropped from a height onto bare feet it would break a few toes, or crack a tile floor. When I went to Border’s to buy a copy for Lou’s birthday and couldn’t find it, I asked a young saleslady about it and she said “Oh yeah, it’s this huge. We have a big stack of it somewhere.” She and I spent fifteen minutes looking for the big stack, which didn’t exist. (I took the opportunity to grab a copy of Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, and I’m glad I did.) Then she headed to the back room and returned ten minutes later. (I’d spent the time browsing Amy Sedaris’s Crafts for Poor People and discovered I disliked it. Intensely.)
“The computer says we have two copies. I can’t find them.” I suggested she check the Hold area behind the counter and after five minutes she emerged victorious. She dismissed the book customer who’d put it on hold: “You snooze, you lose,” and I gav e Borders my thirty five bucks.
Some reviewer called it a “Dad Christmas present.” Well, my Dad reads through Herodotus and Thucydides for fun. My Dad presented me with a copy of Tom Sawyer when I was ten and it changed my life. Just mention the Duke and the Dolphin to Daddy and he bends over at the waist and weeps with laughter. I don’t doubt that he could recall the plot points of Connecticut Yankee if I dialled him up this minute . And the tougher books, like The Mysterious Stranger. (Family legend is that my great-grandfather hung with Twain. They inhabited the same literary circle and had the same friends in fin-de-siecle New York. It may very well be true.)
Autobiography of Mark Twain is 736 pages long and the print is teeny. Lou started to read it today, got through maybe fifty pages and hasn’t shut up. Twain’s stories about the life of U.S. Grant, the duplicity of the AP , Grant’s miserable financial sense, his honor , the rapacious publishing business of the time, all spoken with Twain’s plain speak. Brilliant.
I’ve just dipped in, and I’m here to say that there’s a gem of a story on every page, like the one about his mother not caring for the “private bats” he brought home from the caves of Hannibal in his pockets.
This isn’t a Dad doorstop Christmas present: it’s a page turner. A life enhancer. A view back, and some thoughts about what we can do together going forward. And it’s funny.
On the eve of this most American holiday, I’m giving thanks for Mark Twain.
(Edited to add: He weighed the book. Four and a half pounds.)