The rags-to-riches story of Mark Twain

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The Making of Mark Twain, by John Lauber. New York: American Heritage. 310 pp. $17.95. This book is well titled, because from the biographical evidence, Mark Twain was not only a pseudonym but also the self-creation of a highly sensitive and talented man, Samuel Clemens.

It was Missouri rags to Connecticut riches, Hannibal to Hartford.

John Lauber likes his subject and writes so very well about it that we, too, cannot help liking that roaring, complex, and cantankerous man, Mark Twain.

Recommended: Mark Twain: 10 letters from his readers

Twain went west with the Gold Rush but struck his gold in his inkwell. His humorous story about a jumping frog (``The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County'') carried him, as well as the frog, to enduring fame.

And it was a pretty fast leap. By the end of this study, which deals with Twain's life to the age of 35, we find the writer firmly established as a celebrity lecturer and author.

But before ``The Adventures of Tom Sawyer'' and ``Huckleberry Finn'' came work as a printer's apprentice, river pilot, reporter, and lecturer.

His immediate success with audiences started a lifelong love affair between Mark Twain and the public.

No matter how many controversies, or just who he may or may not have insulted, all was eventually forgiven.

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