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stand. He's just been kicked out by his wife for having an affair, so he's staying with his lover, Judi Dubey— whom he's not sure he loves. Luckily , the lack of feeling is mutual. Judi sets Laf up on the couch and encourages him to enter marriage counseling and see if he can reconcile with his wife. Laf goes along with this plan enthusiastically, but he eventually admits to himself that things just aren't going to work out. About this time, Judi is diagnosed with cancer. Laf is the kind of person who isn't sure he knows how to love, but he does know how to do the right thing. He cares for Judi, taking her to the hospital, nursing her through graphically described chemotherapy, talking with her about dying—and in so doing, Laf falls in love with Judi for real. All of which may make the book sound like a bad episode of Oprah: midlife-crisis men whose lovers get cancer. But it is much more than that. Laf and Judi are surrounded by a hilarious, if sometimes confusing, cast of supporting characters, including Judi's schizo father, Laf's gallant dog Spot, and Judi's trailertrash family. Laf is an irresistibly funny narrator, possessing at once a kind heart and a mordant wit. The book keeps you turning pages, but at the same time manages to be moving and profound. In fact, Love Warps the Mind a Little is surely the funniest book you'll ever read about a midlife crisis and a battle with cancer. (WJ) InventingMark Twain: The Lives of Samuel Langhorne Clemens by Andrew Hoffman William Morrow, 1997, 568 pp., $30 What distinguishes this biography of Samuel L. Clemens from predecessors like Albert Bigelow Paine's epic work, Mark Twain: A Biography, and Justin Kaplan's Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, is Hoffman's equal interest in Clemens, deeply flawed man and writer, and Mark Twain, nom de plume and creation. Hoffman skillfully demonstrates the dichotomy between the brilliant, eccentric public man of letters, Twain, and the cowardly , self-destructive narcissist, Clemens. This division is described in an engrossing psychobiography that attributes Clemens' literary "schizophrenia " to childhood insecurities. Clemens was born November 30, 1835, in the frontier hamlet of Florida, Missouri, to John Marshall Clemens, a lawyer whose poor fiscal management kept his family in dire straits, and Jane Lampton Clemens, an anxious mother who doted on the sickly child. Never receiving approval from his father, Samuel sought center stage from his mother and his older siblings, becoming a wild, unmanageable boy, given to explosions of unprovoked rage. Driven out of Florida by debts, John Clemens moved the family to Hannibal, Missouri, where Sam, although a voracious reader, hung out with his fellow hooky players, smoking, drinking, and cursing. When his father died, the teenager traveled from city to city, working for various newspapers, becoming a man of influence and fortune at the age of twenty-five when he received his riverboat pilot's license. All he wanted now was fame, which he believed he would get through his pen. He received his first taste ofliterary celebrity at thirty with "Jim Smiley The Missouri Review · 209 and his Jumping Frog," a story written by Mark Twain, the pseudonym Clemens had first used while writing letters as a journalist. Clemens then had the idea of giving humorous lectures based on his travel experiences , making Mark Twain a theatrical attraction in order to gain an audience. His idea was so successful that when he married Olivia Langdon in 1869, newspapers reported the marriage of Mark Twain, not Samuel Clemens. Hoffman recounts Clemens' history of personal tragedies: loss of family members and friends, attempted suicide, disastrous investments , and the eventual humiliation of being forced by enormous debts to tour as Mark Twain, an alter ego he was by then weary of. By 1902, between royalties and investments made for him by a close friend, Henry Rogers, he had regained financial security, but after the death of his wife in 1904, another cloud was cast on his fame by rumors of his appetite for association with young girls. In Pudd'nhead Wilson's...


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pp. 209-210
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