The New Literary Celebrity: Mark Twain Editors

Volume one of his autobiography was a hit ... and now the pressure is on
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2011 10:37 AM CST

(Newser) – When Harriet Elinor Smith was recognized by a fellow BART passenger who had seen her on TV, she was shocked, to say the least. After all, Smith spends the majority of her time not rocking the airwaves, but holed up in a UC Berkeley office, surrounded by centuries-old documents. She's the lead editor of the Autobiography of Mark Twain, and she and her colleagues are finding themselves new-found literary celebrities. And like rock stars about to release their sophomore effort, the pressure is on, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The staff of UC Berkeley's Mark Twain Papers & Project have toiled in near-obscurity for 43 years. But volume one of the autobiography was a major hit—it has been a bestseller since November—and expectations are building for the final two volumes. With nearly 500,000 copies in print (the center's first editor expected 10,000 to sell), the publisher now wants the second volume to hit shelves next year, and the last by 2014. But the center's general editor says he won't sacrifice quality to make that happen.
"We are going as fast as we can. Maybe it's not fast enough for this commercial pressure. But I don't consider it my job to give in to that." (Read more Mark Twain stories.)

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