May 31, 2007

Some Huck Finn reflections

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain, 1885

I'm about halfway through Huck Finn, and it's far more wonderful than I remember. Probably just because I'm older and have more appreciation for its beauty and vigor that I did when I was 17 or when I was 25. I used to take for granted that everyone was right when they said it was such a great novel, and of course it's an easy book to enjoy, but until now I don't think I really understood its genius. And I've read a lot more literature from the rest of the world now, so I get what makes it so richly American too.

- Those rapturous lyrical passages about the riverscape that just make me want to weep sometimes.

- The ten thousand layers of conflict, basically an attempt to encompass human civilization, so deftly tucked into a personal narrative.

- The loose, base, unfettered spoken language, jangling off the page.

- Characters that can be cartoons when they need to be, and yet never lose their resonance as breathing fellow human beings.

- That ironic humor that cuts so deep and makes you laugh so hard:

"Yes, gentlemen, you see before you, in blue jeans and misery, the wanderin', exiled, trampled-on, and sufferin' rightful King of France."

Say it out loud to really enjoy the poetry of it. At this moment, I can't think of anything funnier or more affecting than that. I'll write more when I finish the book, but man am I glad I'm reading this right now.

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