Chasing the Last Laugh: Mark Twain's Raucous and Redemptive Round-the-World Comedy Tour

Doubleday. Apr. 2016. 464p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780385536448. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780385536455. LIT
OrangeReviewStarZacks has penned popular books on subjects ranging from the pirate Captain Kidd to Theodore Roosevelt's antivice crusade in New York. His latest is a compelling exploration of a tumultuous period in the life of the American author Mark Twain. In 1895, prior to turning 60, Twain began an exhausting world tour to earn money to pay off creditors after his publishing firm collapsed. Embarrassed and nearly broke, he spent a year traveling constantly, while lecturing to spellbound audiences in North America, Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa. He then wrote an account of his adventures in England and drifted throughout Europe with his family. By the time he finally returned home in 1900, he had paid off his debts in full and earned worldwide acclaim. Any book about Twain during those years can't fail to be lively, but Zacks's fluid prose and attention to broader contexts take his narrative even further, making it a rich and often revealing work, unmatched in its intimate details of the lecture tour and Twain's financial problems.
VERDICT A welcome contribution to Twain scholarship, Zacks's book will also be relished by general readers. Recommended for most collections.
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