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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 New Calendar (1897), Mark Twain wrote, "Every man is a moon and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody." Throughout this biography , Hoffman repeats the premise that Sam Clemens considered himself a failure and a coward and that he had constructed Mark Twain as a brave and successful alter ego behind whose image he could camouflage his private nature. Hoffman's clear style and his mastery of some of the excellent recent scholarship on Twain help elucidate the dark side of one of the most widely known writers in the world. (JB) Tropical Classical: Essays from Several Directions by Pico Iyer Knopf, 1997, 313 pp., $25 This collection of Pico Iyer's magazine features suffers from having too many different kinds of writing in it. It includes some twenty denatured pieces from Time magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, and Islands, alongside heftier articles from The Smithsonian and the New York Review of Books. The book includes everything from longish travel pieces about Ethiopia and Kathmandu to glib toss-offs about the wonders of the comma and "Confessions of a Frequent Hier." Its section headings are "Places," "People," "Books," "Themes," and "Squibs"—in other words, everything the sedulous journalist could find in his files that still looked good. Iyer tailors his features to the magazine, and differences in styles, lengths, and viewpoints make for a hodgepodge. One can have fun guessing the magazine that each article appeared in, because the permissions page, coyly tucked at the back of the book, is evasive about the original venue of all except the selections from Time. Iyer first became known as a travel writer with books like Cuba and the Night and Falling off the Map. The "places" selections here are solid—full of mood and detail and enjoyment—but without the final stamp of individuality that could put them in the highest rank of travel writing. The best pieces in this miscellany are longish review essays written in the style of the New York Review of 210 · The Missouri Review Books. Over half of the reviews are of works by post-colonial authors of mixed Indian, Pakistani, and English background—Salman Rushdie, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, R. K. Narayan, and others—while the remaining ones are of books by American authors. Iyer is an enthusiastic and generous reader, writing jargonless, vivid, open-minded review essays. He is good at the primary job of a reviewer, inspiring readers to try certain authors. Also, he is perceptive at locating weaknesses , as when he describes Ruth Jhabvala's fiction, despite its many virtues, as being so obsessed by charlatans and manipulators—particularly spiritual charlatans and seekers—that she paints almost all of her characters as either manipulators or deserving victims. An essay on Salman Rushdie begins with the provocative statement: "The great problem with Salman Rushdie, I have often felt, is that he is simply too talented. And no writer has seemed more captive to his gifts: his powers of invention and imagination are so prodigal and so singular that he often gives the impression of not knowing when to stop . . . the puns and polycultural references and paralleling images multiply to the point of overload." While holding to this criticism, Iyer goes...


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pp. 210-211
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