Author: Mark Twain
Narrator: Bronson Pinchot
Audiobook Length: 11 hours, 1 minute
Synopsis (Courtesy of Indiebound): “Famed author’s plain-spoken words — recorded as character sketches, essays, diary entries, letters and more — recall his boisterous boyhood in Hannibal, Missouri, life as a riverboat pilot, as a young adult in rough Nevada mining towns, years spent as an author, plus somber passages noting the death of his wife and their three children.”
Thoughts: Within the first few minutes of this audiobook, one knows exactly why Mark Twain was such a success as an author and humorist. His wit and satire abound with each story, and yet he maintains a level of humility that is just as charming as it is surprising. The anecdotes and stories presented by Twain in this collection are at times heartbreaking, touching, difficult, and, as one would expect, hilarious. Twain does not shy away from highlighting his faults and foibles and presents them with an alacrity that is simply amusing.
What makes Chapters from My Autobiography so difficult is the randomness of each story. Twain jumps around from discussing his children to his brother to his time in Europe and back with no introduction and no preparation for the reader. Following along quickly becomes a study in concentration, as this is not an audiobook that allows one’s mind to drift. However, when the effort is made, the reader/listener is rewarded with a better understanding of how remarkable Twain’s life was. His relationship with his wife and children is especially poignant, as he presents his daughter’s biography of him in its entirety, complete with spelling errors. His pride at his daughter’s ability to capture him in all his faults is simply beautiful to behold.
Mr. Pinchot earns his Narrator of the Year nod with a spot-on performance as Mark Twain. His accent never wavers, and his ability to take rather dry material and imbibe it with spirit and humor is alone worth the time necessary to listen to the audio. Twain literally comes alive again through Mr. Pinchot.
Chapters from My Autobiography is charming in its own right, especially with such highlights as Susie’s biography of her father, but it is truly the narrator who makes this such a special experience for the listener. For those who are not willing to tackle Mr. Twain’s entire autobiography, or at least the one volume of it that was recently released, this audio is a great introduction to his story and a wonderful teaser of the true face of one of America’s most celebrated authors.