Grant and Twain: The Story of a Friendship That Changed America

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Random House Publishing Group, May 4, 2004 - Biography & Autobiography - 336 pages
4 Reviews
In the spring of 1884 Ulysses S. Grant heeded the advice of Mark Twain and finally agreed to write his memoirs. Little did Grant or Twain realize that this seemingly straightforward decision would profoundly alter not only both their lives but the course of American literature. Over the next fifteen months, as the two men became close friends and intimate collaborators, Grant raced against the spread of cancer to compose a triumphant account of his life and times—while Twain struggled to complete and publish his greatest novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.In this deeply moving and meticulously researched book, veteran writer Mark Perry reconstructs the heady months when Grant and Twain inspired and cajoled each other to create two quintessentially American masterpieces.

In a bold and colorful narrative, Perry recounts the early careers of these two giants, traces their quest for fame and elusive fortunes, and then follows the series of events that brought them together as friends. The reason Grant let Twain talk him into writing his memoirs was simple: He was bankrupt and needed the money. Twain promised Grant princely returns in exchange for the right to edit and publish the book—and though the writer’s own finances were tottering, he kept his word to the general and his family.

Mortally ill and battling debts, magazine editors, and a constant crush of reporters, Grant fought bravely to get the story of his life and his Civil War victories down on paper. Twain, meanwhile, staked all his hopes, both financial and literary, on the tale of a ragged boy and a runaway slave that he had been unable to finish for decades. As Perry delves into the story of the men’s deepening friendship and mutual influence, he arrives at the startling discovery of the true model for the character of Huckleberry Finn.

With a cast of fascinating characters, including General William T. Sherman, William Dean Howells, William Henry Vanderbilt, and Abraham Lincoln, Perry’s narrative takes in the whole sweep of a glittering, unscrupulous age. A story of friendship and history, inspiration and desperation, genius and ruin, Grant and Twain captures a pivotal moment in the lives of two towering Americans and the age they epitomized.

From the Hardcover edition.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - nmele - LibraryThing

A very interesting look at the friendship between Mark Twain and U.S. Grant, with the focus being Grant's effort to finish his memoirs before his death from throat cancer. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - HistReader - LibraryThing

Embarrassingly, I admit I knew about as much of General Grant as the typical person: he was a president after serving as a general in the Civil War. Similarly, like most, I had more familiarity with ... Read full review


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About the author (2004)

MARK PERRY, writer, reporter, and foreign policy analyst, has published articles in dozens of magazines and newspapers, including The Nation, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, and New York Newsday. His critically acclaimed books include Four Stars: The Inside Story of the Forty-Year Battle Between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and America’s Civilian Leaders; Eclipse: The Last Days of the CIA; Fire in Zion: The Israeli-Palestinian Search for Peace; and Lift Up Thy Voice: The Grimke Family’s Journey from Slaveholders to Civil Rights Leaders. Perry lives in Arlington, Virginia.

From the Hardcover edition.

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