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Grant and Twain: The Story of a Friendship That Changed America (2004)

by Mark Perry

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237589,949 (4.03)8
Explores the relationship between Ulysses S. Grant and Samuel Clemens and assesses the literary influence that each had upon the other.

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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. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
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 the contrarian, Mark Twain. I closed the back cover on this book with a profound respect for both men and their accomplishments.

Mark Perry has created a dual biography which mostly focuses on the time in which Twain encourages General Grant to document his memoirs. Perry provides a comprehensive history of both men in their formative years as well as their burgeoning years when they amassed exploits to make them notable. Like other dual biographies have illustrated, these two men have many coincidences in their lives that are uncanny.

Grant and Twain is layered with so many different levels, I felt more knowledgeable with more than both men's lives. Mr. Perry wove the influence numerous occurrences had on the events of Grant and Twain. Mark Perry delves into a little "inside baseball" with the tumultuous world of publishing, both periodical and book; as an author, he likely understands what both men went through as they wrote momentous books; he shows that even in the late nineteenth century, the journalists who camped outside General Grant's apartment and the newspapers they reported for were sometimes just as representative of the news business's underbelly. Mr. Perry also authoritatively discusses the impact race, racism and the end of slavery had on the men and their era; Grant always an abolitionist, Twain matured as he removed himself from his Southern roots.

Again, this book is less of a biographical account of either man, but provides enough "background" preparation to allow the reader to understand how respectable this pair was. As Mr. Perry shares in the prologue, this book is less about each man individually, and more about their personal afflictions and a fifteen month business agreement which turned to a friendship. ( )
  HistReader | May 3, 2012 |
Several years ago I read a full biography of Mark Twain, but knew virtually nothing about General Grant except some information about his civil war escapades. I thoroughly enjoyed this book about the friendship between these two remarkable people. Grant was a fascinating subject, and the information on Twain, though I already knew most of it, was still interesting. Perry did an excellent job of bringing the two men alive and giving the reader all the necessary information regarding their backgrounds and friendship. Recommended. ( )
1 vote whymaggiemay | Aug 19, 2011 |
I did not know Grant and Twain had a friendship and a business agreement. I am now reading Grant's memoirs (available online for free) as a result of this book. I find both of these lives remarkable. Twain remains one of my favorite people to admire. I will now add Grant to my list of people whom I most admire. ( )
  coffeeandtea | Dec 18, 2010 |
A Human Look at History

I loved this book. Too many histories become footnote festooned tomes that talk of eras, movements and trends. Gone is any sense that history represents the interaction of individuals.

In this highly readable book, Mark Perry protrays a friendship between one of American cultural giants and its military greats: Mark Twain and U. S. Grant. He explores how each man dealt with the American they experienced and how they interacted to impact each other's greatest work.

Grant had a keen eye for detail and loved to relate unique wartime incidents. Twain, as most acknowledge, was an accomplished storyteller. Both had a rich reservoir of unique tales to tell.

For Grant, a story’s soul resided in its basic truth and humor. For Twain, it lay in the detail – its nuance, mystery and unexpected outcome. Grant loved to tell stories and told them well. Twain toured the country telling stories, the taller the tale, the better.

Together, they inspired the other’s greatest masterpiece. Inspired by Twain and suffering from cancer, Grant worked against his disease’s deadline to complete his memoirs. While working with Grant, Twain conceived of the ending to Huckleberry Finn.

The book misses greatness by the inclusion of several errors. Georgetown is not in Kentucky. The street on which Twain lived in Buffalo, N. Y. was Delaware Avenue. The name of the town in upstate New York was Geneseo. While individually each of these errors is probably not major; together they detract from the story’s credibility. A reader deserves accuracy from an accomplished historian and his editors.

Despite these lapses, I enjoyed the book. It has a cast of fascinating characters: Gen. William T. Sherman, William Dean Howells and Karl Gerhardt, to name a few. It is a moving story of history, friendship, inspiration, failure and success. In doing so, it depicts the age in which they lived. ( )
  PointedPundit | Mar 26, 2008 |
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To the irresolute the victor came
and as he came it seemed to Soliman
he in his fury and his speed and frame
surpassed the semblance of a mortal man.
He put up a little fight, but as he died
did not forget he was a noble man;
he gave no groans, but met the blows, uncowed.
To the last all he did was great and proud.
--Gerusalemme liberata
Torquato Tasso
For Nicholas S. Mikhalevsky
This book is about two men who led lives of great honor and dignity, and so it is dedicated to another man of great honor and dignity, Nicholas S. Mikhalevsky  (from the Acknowledgments)
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He wasn't much to look at -- this "Hero of the Union," this "Savior of his country."   (Prologue)
Ulysses S. Grant never understood how to handle money.  (One)
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Explores the relationship between Ulysses S. Grant and Samuel Clemens and assesses the literary influence that each had upon the other.

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