Most Mark Twain biographers skim over a short but significant period in the distinguished author’s life—the time he lived and worked in Buffalo (1869-1871).
Thankfully, Thomas J. Reigstad, semiretired Buffalo State English faculty member and Twain scholar, has remedied this with an engaging and detailed Twain biography Scribblin’ for a Livin’: Mark Twain’s Pivotal Period in Buffalo (Prometheus Books), scheduled for release March 19. The book has garnered local media attention already, including a review and feature in the Buffalo News and a story in the Tonawanda News.
Scribblin’ for a Livin’ was a labor of love for Reigstad, a lifelong Buffalonian who began studying Twain in the early ‘70s while earning a master’s degree at the University of Missouri. Throughout his career, Reigstad produced numerous essays and presentations on Twain. This is his first book. “I had been encouraged to write a Twain biography for years,” said Reigstad.
Through painstaking research at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society and the Mark Twain Archives at Elmira College, along with numerous interviews, Reigstad discovered Twain had a fondness for the city and forged several lifelong friendships here. Twain also experienced heartache and loss during this period.
“I wrote the book to explain the network of society he mingled with, along with the important events in his life here,” Reigstad said. “In the process, I discovered a few of his long-lost stories.” He also found and included previously unpublished columns and archival photographs.
The photograph at left is Twain’s Buffalo residence, located at 472 Delaware Avenue.
While at Buffalo State, Reigstad taught literature courses, prepared students to teach language arts/literacy, and designed the writing minor. In 2002, Reigstad received the President’s Award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity. He retired in 2007, but returned part time last fall to teach a literature course. This semester, he’s teaching two courses and plans to lead a graduate seminar on Twain in the fall.
There will be several opportunities to hear Reigstad during the following author talks and readings:
- April 10 reading at noon at the Central Library, 1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo
- April 15 book signing at 5:30-7:00 p.m. at Buffalo State Barnes & Noble
- April 25 Year of the City lecture at 12:15 p.m. in Bulger Communication Center West
- April 25 reading at 7:00 p.m. at Talking Leaves bookstore, 3158 Main Street, Buffalo
- May 14 author talk at 7:15 p.m. at the Tonawanda-Kenmore Historical Society, 100 Knoche Road, Tonawanda.