Mark Twain death centennial sparks wave of nostalgia

Tue Nov 23, 2010 1:03pm EST
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By Bruce Olson

HANNIBAL, Missouri (Reuters Life!) - One hundred years after reports of his death were correct, not exaggerated, Mark Twain is a hot commodity again with an autobiography on the best-seller list and a new CD celebrating his legacy.

The best seller is the first of the three-volume "Autobiography of Mark Twain," the iconoclastic author's private thoughts dictated during his life with the stipulation they not be published until he was dead for 100 years. That anniversary is 2010 and the 500,000-word book is flying off shelves.

The CD, "Mark Twain: Words & Music," is narrated by Garrison Keillor with Twain's words spoken by Clint Eastwood. It also features songs by Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, Ricky Skaggs and others and is produced by Grammy-winner Carl Jackson.

It will be played and performed in public for the first time on Nov 30 at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, the Mississippi river town where Twain grew up.

Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in 1835, the young author took the pen name Mark Twain became one of America's best known writers and humorists, celebrated for novels such as "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer."

The songs in the new CD tie together strands of Twain's life and include several originals, including "Huck Finn Blues," written by Jackson and sung by Brad Paisley, the 2010 Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year, whose son is named Huck and is, according to Jackson, "a true Twainiac."

The album leads off with "Halley Came to Jackson," a Mary Chapin Carpenter composition sung by Emmylou Harris about the bookend appearance of Halley's Comet when Twain was born and when he died.

Other songs refer to the death of Twain's daughter ("Love Is On Our Side" sung by Val Storey) and his wife's death (Vince Gill on "I Know You by Heart.") There's also a look at Twain's days in Nevada (Bradley Walker's "Cowboy in his Soul") and the day he met his wife ("I Wandered by a Brookside," by the 14-year-old Church Sisters.)   Continued...