|Mark Twain with his companion, Isabel Van Kleek Lyon. (Courtesy of Robert Slotta)|
Missouri and the Mississippi River loom large in Twain’s life but the city of Hartford claims a piece of his soul, too, because it was there that he wrote some of his best-loved books. A chamber opera and play based on “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’’ will debut in Hartford, and the Mark Twain House, where the author lived from 1871 to 1891, is hosting a number of talks as well as a Victorian-style séance.
Two new books, “Mark Twain: Man in White’’ (Random House) by Michael Shelden and “Mark Twain’s Other Woman’’ (Knopf) by Laura Skandera Trombley, focus on his final years. Isabel Van Kleek Lyon, the “other woman’’ in Trombley’s book, plays a prominent role in Shelden’s book as well. After Twain’s wife died, Lyon became Twain’s companion, secretary, and household manager. When the relationship soured, Twain fired her, calling her “a liar, a forger, a thief, a hypocrite, a drunkard, a sneak, a humbug, a traitor, a conspirator, a filthy-minded and salacious slut pining for seduction.’’
“Mark Twain’s Book of Animals’’ (University of California), with illustrations by Barry Moser, and “Who is Mark Twain?’’ (HarperStudio) collect his lesser-known writings. The latter includes the essays, “Happy Memories of the Dental Chair’’ and “The Privilege of the Grave.’’
Finally, “Lighting Out for the Territory: How Samuel Clemens Headed West and Became Mark Twain’’ (Simon & Schuster) by Roy Morris Jr. is an entertaining account of how Clemens reinvented himself when he was 25. He tried his hand at newspaper reporting, had near-constant run-ins with his editors, enjoyed a few publishing successes, and turned to the stage, becoming a popular author, humorist, and performer.
■ “For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History’’ by Sarah Rose (Viking)
■“The Glass Industry in South Boston,’’ by Joan E. Kaiser (University Press of New England)
Jan Gardner can be reached at JanL Gardner@yahoo.com.