Mark Twain’s move to the Bay Area at the beginning of the Civil War sparked a writer’s renaissance in San Francisco. Ben Tarnoff’s latest book, “The Bohemians,” chronicles this golden age in literature through the adventures of Twain, his friend-turned-adversary Bret Harte, essayist Charles Warren Stoddard and forgotten poet Ina Coolbrith. Tarnoff joins us to talk about the book.

Ben Tarnoff, author of "The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature"

  • thucy

    I hope Mr. Tarnoff’s book gives due credit to John Ross Browne, who deeply influenced (and was often copied by) Mark Twain.
    Though he was no “bohemian”, Mr. Browne also influenced Herman Melville, and indirectly influenced some of the great California scientific writings of the 19th century. He also helped writers to network between the two coasts. A truly underappreciated California writer!
    If you grew up in California public schools, you were probably force-fed Twain for several grades, which is a rotten way to meet a writer.
    So grateful we were never forced to read Melville – it might have ruined the furtive pleasure and terror of discovering “Benito Cereno” and Moby-Dick on our own.
    J.R. Browne and Melville worked some of the toughest blue-collar jobs of the 19th century, they went on to write complex books about common men. No disrespect, but Twain seems to have spent a lot of time boozin’ it up on the lecture circuit…

  • Anne Schulte

    Was it really Mark Twain who said, “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” or was that wrongly attributed to him (as I’ve been corrected)?

  • Robert Thomas

    I had the opportunity to ask William Burroughs how he regarded Mark Twain. He said something like, “As for chroniclers of the Western states, none other owes the **** more than I…”

  • tom rusert

    Is there any factual proof that Twain spent anytime in the City of Sonoma, CA?

  • David Farmer

    Regarding John Rollin Ridge in California, see the book by Rennard Strickland and David Farmer titled A Trumpet of Our Own, Yellow Bird’s Essays on the North American Indian, Selections from the Writings of the Noted Author, John Rollin Ridge. This book was published by The Book Club of California in 1981. Although it is out of print, it should be found in various California history collections around the Bay Area.

  • ArnoldLayne

    This was a very interesting program, I should buy the book, but I have too many unread on the shelf 😉

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