Michael Kupperman – Mark Twain’s Autobiography: 1910 – 2010 (Book Review)

Mark Twain's Autobiography: 1910 - 2010 cover

Michael Kupperman - Mark Twain's Autobiography: 1910 - 2010

Michael Kupperman is a comedian best known for the surrealist Tales Designed To Thrizzle comic book. (I also recommend his Twitter account.) With Mark Twain’s Autobiography: 1910 – 2010, he tries his hand at a (barely) full-length book. Based on the premise that Twain was actually immortal, this tells of the adventures that the man has had in the hundred years since his death was “exaggerated” again.

It turns out that Kupperman is naturally fit for the short-form humor of Twitter or comics that change every few pages. This book features 36 chapters in 150 pages – with half of those pages being illustrations. And the longer chapters even contain sudden shifts, such as the time that Twain investigates a ghost in Einstein’s lab, decides to go time-traveling, meets Cyrano and zombies, and then ends up in a movie studio.

Example of inside pages

Fortunately, the absurdist humor works, frequently providing laugh-out-loud moments. But make no mistake: absurdist humor is the reason to read this. The book is aimed at people who are automatically amused by “Hobo Mark Twain” and “Mark Twain in Space!”, not people looking for humor based on the real Mark Twain. The prose is laughably simplistic, with none of the intelligence or satire that Twain would have brought to an autobiography, and the book generally ignores what we know about the man’s personality. There are occasional references to his love of rafting or his books, but the fiercely opinionated and moral man is replaced with a foolish and self-centered lover of adventure.

Mark Twain’s Autobiography works best as a bathroom reader. It’s quick and amusing, only demanding a couple minutes of attention at a time. With its strange approach and truly funny stories, it stands above most of the humor books that market themselves that way. But in the tradition of bathroom readers, it will be forgotten ten minutes later.

Grade: B-

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