‘Fairest Picture – Mark Twain at Lake Tahoe’ recently released
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. – A book released Aug. 20, 2011, “Fairest Picture – Mark Twain at Lake Tahoe,” by David C. Antonucci describes Mark Twain’s experiences and travels at Lake Tahoe. Fairest Picture is the first and only book to describe Lake Tahoe in Mark Twain’s time and reveal locations where he traveled, camped and stayed at 19th century hotels.
September 2011 marks 150 years since Samuel L. Clemens, known widely as Mark Twain, first visited Lake Tahoe. He arrived with the unrealized goal of staking a timber claim, but returned less than two years later as Mark Twain, reporter and columnist for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise.
“Fairest Picture” describes pristine Lake Tahoe during Mark Twain’s visits. The climate and the lake was colder than today. Clarity was perhaps as much as twice today’s measurements. The lake teamed with fish, dominated by huge Lahontan cutthroat trout. A soaring old growth forest with trees hundreds of feet high and 3-5 feet in diameter ringed the lake. In summer, natural low intensity fires burned through the undergrowth reducing morning visibility. The Sierra Nevada mountain tops held year-round snowfields.
Part of author David C. Antonucci’s research involved decoding Mark Twain’s writings to determine fact from fiction and exaggeration. Mark Twain’s “Roughing It” was creative nonfiction with exaggeration, outright fabrications and misstatements of fact. Correctly interpreting Lake Tahoe references required critical evaluation through the lenses of geology, limnology, physics, geography, astronomy, biology, semantics, deductive reasoning, and, of course, the natural and cultural histories of Lake Tahoe.
The book solves the riddle of the timber claim location and describes Mark Twain’s subsequent visits to 19th century luxury hotels.
The book reveals new information about Twain’s travels in nearby Alpine County in 1863 and an 1868 trip by train, sleigh and stagecoach over Donner Summit and through Truckee.
For the first time, all verified and documented Mark Twain quotations about Lake Tahoe appear in one place along with the context and interpretation. He uses Lake Tahoe as his gold standard for all lakes and compares other world lakes to Tahoe in his travel writings. The book includes an appendix of known Mark Twain writings and lecture remarks about Lake Tahoe.
Mark Twain scholars and enthusiasts will appreciate the book’s detailed maps and directions to 12 places visited by Mark Twain and mentioned in his writings, including his North Shore campsites. Mark Twain literary pilgrims can visit his lakeside campsites, see the site of a cabin where he “borrowed” the owner’s boat, and view the site of the upscale hotel where he stayed. They can walk sections of old wagon roads he traveled by stagecoach.
One chapter is devoted to debunking the many Mark Twain-Lake Tahoe myths and legends that have abounded since he first appeared at Lake Tahoe.
David’s interest in Twain’s adventures at Lake Tahoe began when he enrolled in a community college class on Lake Tahoe history. For a term paper assignment, he chose to apply his civil engineering skills to analyze Mark Twain’s route and locations of his encampments at Lake Tahoe in 1861 based on the “Roughing It account.” This led to rediscovery of Mark Twain’s Ash Canyon-Washoe Trail route to from Carson City, Nev. to Lake Tahoe and specific campsite locations on the North Shore. Antonucci’s initial research was validated by the class instructor, the late Lyndall Landauer, PhD, Tahoe historian and author of “Mountain Sea: A History of Lake Tahoe.” He presented his findings to an audience of respected scholars at the 2005 Conference on Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College, Elmira, N.Y.
David C. Antonucci has resided in the Lake Tahoe area for over 36 years. He holds bachelor and master degrees in civil and environmental engineering from California State Polytechnic University and Oregon State University, respectively. In 2009, David published the very popular Snowball’s Chance – The Story of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games. The book won the Ullr Award from the International Skiing History Association for its major contribution in book form to skiing history.
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