Chasing the Last Laugh: Book summary and reviews of Chasing the Last Laugh by Richard Zacks

Chasing the Last Laugh

Mark Twain's Raucous and Redemptive Round-the-World Comedy Tour

by Richard Zacks

Chasing the Last Laugh by Richard Zacks X
Chasing the Last Laugh by Richard Zacks
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Book Summary

From Richard Zacks, bestselling author of The Pirate Hunter and Island of Vice, a rich and lively account of Mark Twain's late-life adventures abroad.

In 1895, at age sixty, Mark Twain was dead broke and miserable - his recent novels had been critical and commercial failures, and he was bankrupted by his inexplicable decision to run a publishing company.  His wife made him promise to pay every debt back in full, so Twain embarked on an around-the-world comedy lecture tour that would take him from the dusty small towns of the American West to the faraway lands of India, South Africa, Australia, and beyond.

Richard Zacks' rich and entertaining narrative provides a portrait of Twain as complicated, vibrant individual, and showcases the biting wit and skeptical observation that made him one of the greatest of all American writers. Twain remained abroad for five years, a time of struggle and wild experiences - and ultimately redemption, as he rediscovered his voice as a writer and humorist, and returned, wiser and celebrated. As he said in his famous reply to an article about his demise, "the report of my death is an exaggeration."

Weaving together a trove of sources, including newspaper accounts, correspondence, and unpublished material from Berkeley's ongoing Twain Project, Zacks chronicles  a chapter of Twain's life as complex as the author himself, full of foolishness and bad choices, but also humor, self-discovery, and triumph.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. "[D]eeply entertaining... Zacks's narrative is well-researched with rich detail and it will strike ardent Twain fans and history lovers as fresh and inspiring." - Publishers Weekly

"Between the dizzying sums lost and gained, Zacks offers a rollicking history perfect for Twain's countless fans." - Kirkus

"[F]ast-paced... A diverting - and revealing - look at a neglected episode in Twain's life." - Booklist

"Richard Zacks has a brilliant eye for detail and the narrative gifts needed to bring out all that is strange, zany, and ultimately inspiring in this remarkable story of money, honor, and literary genius." - Stephen Greenblatt, Pulitzer Prize-winning author The Swerve: How the World Became Modern and Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare

"Chasing the Last Laugh is an intimate and fascinating account of what was basically the world's weirdest book tour, starring the funniest writer America has ever produced." - Carl Hiaasen, bestselling author of Bad Monkey and Strip Tease

"Chasing the Last Laugh is something of a miracle. This book will be a joy and revelation for Twain fans. There is a lot new here. Twain's trip around the world- in which he speaks truth, through humor, everywhere- is a wonderful lens through which to see the dawn of America, the collapse of the British Empire, the early stirrings of colonial discontent in India." - Adam Davidson, Co-Host of NPR's Planet Money
 
"If you read only one book on Mark Twain, I would recommend Chasing the Last Laugh. There is everything you could want here: Twain's infinite humor and forbearance, the glistening world of the British Empire at its peak, five years on the road with possibly the funniest and wisest American of his time." - Jay Parini, author of Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal and The Last Station

"A fresh and absorbing account (involving carbuncles, platypus jokes, and a surprising bottom line) of an aging Mark Twain's outlandish passage from ruin to glory." - Roy Blount Jr., author of Save Room for Pie

This information about Chasing the Last Laugh was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Linda Neal

Thoroughly enjoyable
I just recommended this book again today. Very descriptive, thorough, and entertaining. It gave great insights about the differences in the world of Mark Twain and that of today.

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Author Information

Richard Zacks Author Biography

Richard Zacks was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1955 but grew up in New York City. As a teenager, he gambled on the horses, played blackjack in illegal Manhattan card parlors and bought his first drink at age fifteen at the Plaza Hotel. He also attended elite schools such as Horace Mann ('73), University of Michigan ('79) and Columbia Journalism School ('81). He was a Classical Greek major at the University of Michigan and studied Arabic in Cairo, Italian in Perugia, and French in the vineyards of France.

After completing Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, he wrote a syndicated column for four years carried by the NY Daily News, Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News and many others.

His first book, History Laid Bare (1994) packed unusual accounts of love and sex from ...

... Full Biography
Link to Richard Zacks's Website

Name Pronunciation
Richard Zacks: rhymes with axe

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