Can we rediscover the wildness in Mark Twain's humor? Can we understand how that wildness helped make him a national legend and a key figure in the expression of an American self? In Mark Twain on the Loose, Bruce Michelson writes about Twain as a body of literature, as a public personality, and as a myth. Michelson shows that many of Twain's most ambitious and memorable works, from the very beginning to the end of his career, express a drive for absolute liberation from every social, psychological, and artistic limit. The outrageous and anarchic sides of Twain play a vital role in his art. But these traits are undervalued even by his admirers, who often favor clean shapes and steady affirmations in Twain's writing - not the dangerous comic outbreak, or the deep yearning to free the self from every definition and confinement. Reviewing works from a wide range of Twain's writings, Michelson brings to light those wild dimensions, their literary consequences, and their cultural importance. He reveals this great author as "the best escape artist in the American canon, " a reflexive, paradoxical, rule-shattering comic genius.