The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature
The Bohemians begins in 1860s San Francisco. The Gold Rush has ended; the Civil War threatens to tear apart the country. Far from the frontlines, the city at the Western edge roars. The bards of the moment are the Bohemians: A young Mark Twain, fleeing the draft and seeking adventure; literary golden boy Bret Harte; struggling gay poet Charles Warren Stoddard; and Ina Coolbirth, poet and protectorate of the group. The Bohemians reveals how these four writers brought a fresh spirit to American literature, drawn from the new world being formed in the West.
Published by Penguin in hardcover (2014), paperback (2015), and ebook.
The New Yorker:
“Tarnoff's book sings with the humor and expansiveness of his subjects' prose, capturing the intoxicating atmosphere of possibility that defined, for a time, America's frontier."
San Francisco Chronicle:
“Tarnoff breathes fresh life into his narrative with vivid details from the archives… giving us a rich portrait of a lost world overflowing with new wealth and new talent... [A] stylish and fast-paced literary history.”
"Deftly written, wholly absorbing."
"Engrossing... By skillfully tracking the friendships and fortunes of this unusual quartet, Tarnoff narrates the awakening of a powerful new sensibility in American literature... Tarnoff powerfully evokes the western landscapes, local cultures and youthful friendships that helped shape Twain. He has a talent for selecting details that animate the past."
Wall Street Journal:
"Rich hauls of historical research, deeply excavated but lightly borne... Mr. Tarnoff's ultimate thesis is a strong one, strongly expressed: that together these writers 'helped pry American literature away from its provincial origins in New England and push it into a broader current.'"
"Delightful... Adeptly wrapping a wonderful story around these young writers, Tarnoff glides smoothly along, never dwelling too long and never claiming too much. He stacks fifty pages of endnotes at the back of the book but such archival sweat doesn’t show in the prose."
"Tarnoff is a good storyteller and character-portraitist, with a deep knowledge of the West Coast."Reviews
- The Boston Globe, March 29, 2014.
- The Wall Street Journal, March 28, 2014.
- The San Francisco Chronicle, March 14, 2014.
- NY1, April 16, 2014.
- The Chicago Tribune, March 21, 2014.
- The Washington Post, April 25, 2014.
- The New Yorker Page-Turner Blog, April 3, 2014.
- The Oregonian, March 26, 2014.
- The Kansas City Star, March 22, 2014.
- Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 21, 2014.
- The Daily Beast, March 20, 2014.
- Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2014.
- Publisher's Weekly, January 13, 2014.