There has been a decided uptick in interest in Mark Twain recently. All to the good: the great satirist deserves as large an audience as he get in this and any other time. Now HarperStudio is getting in the game with its release of Who is Mark Twain?, a collection of 24 previously unpublished essays by him.
And if you buy the hardcover, you also receive the DRM-free e-book.
While I can’t see why anyone would buy both a hardcover edition and an e-book, if HarperStudio is giving it away and it’s DRM-free in the bargain, I don’t see how you can lose. And not just any old e-book. This one features possibly America’s greatest satirist wondering if “Jane Austen’s goal is to ‘make the reader detest her people up to the middle of the book and like them in the rest of the chapters?’” And:
Twain plasters the city with ads to promote his talk at the Cooper Union (he is terrified no one will attend). Later that day, Twain encounters two men gazing at one of his ads. One man says to the other: “Who is Mark Twain?” The other responds: “God Knows—I Don’t.”
Be sure not to miss John Lithgow reading a selection wherein it is revealed how Twain determined which manuscripts to publish, and which to burn.
I’ve read pretty much everything Twain has written up to this point, and as a writer, I’ve taken his 19 Rules of Literary Art much to heart. I don’t usually buy hard covers, but this one comes in at a reasonable $19.99 and with the e-book to boot, I think I’ll make an exception. Maybe I can give the hardcover away …
One thing I’m very curious about: All Twain’s writings have long since passed into the public domain. So can Harper Studio hold a copyright to these 24 essays? They’re handpicked by Robert Hirst, General Editor of The Mark Twain Project at UC Berkeley, so possibly they’ve been edited. If so, does that mean they can be copyrighted?
Update: Looks like the copyright question is answered: The Daily Beast has run an excerpt from Who is Mark Twain? with this addendum at the bottom:
Extracted from Who is Mark Twain? by Mark Twain. © 2009 With permission from the Publisher, HarperStudio.
What I want to know is, how can this be? I’ll be asking the folks at HarperStudio. We’ll see if they get back to me.
Note: This post originally appeared at TeleRead.