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Alan Gribben Talks Mark Twain’s Life, Looks to Unique New Edition

Alan Gribben, Auburn University Montgomery professor and noted Mark Twain scholar, spoke Saturday at the inaugural “History at High Noon” lecture series at Old Alabama Town.

Dr. Gribben’s lecture, “The World According to Mark Twain,” taught listeners about Mark Twain’s life and the full range of his writings. Gribben explained that even though Twain’s reputation has in recent years rested on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, he was better known in his lifetime for his travel writing. “People during that time did not think of him as a fiction writer,” Gribben noted, as reported by Alvin Benn of The Montgomery Advertiser. “Twain had difficulty at times developing plot lines for his novels and much preferred his travel books,” mainly because a trip had already formed the structure of those works.

Dr. Gribben wrote the introduction to NewSouth’s Alabama Big Read edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, published last year. Currently, he is working with NewSouth on a combined edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn that replaces the books’ racial epithets-which Twain used to reflect the societal standards of the nineteenth century-to enlarge the potential audience of students and teachers.

Gribben explains that Mark Twain’s novels “can be enjoyed deeply and authentically without those continual encounters with hundreds of now-indefensible racial slurs.” Numerous editions use the derogative words, and Gribben believes that their presence has gradually diminished the readership of Twain’s two masterpieces. This new edition will be the first of its kind to make this substantive change.

The Alabama Big Read Edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite retail or online bookseller. Alan Gribben’s new volume, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn: The NewSouth Edition, will be available in February 2011.