Sunday, May 23, 2010

Book 1 Review - Huckleberry Finn

It took a little longer than I thought (mostly due to procrastination and time and attention devoted to my nieces and nephew), but I finally finished The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn!

On my flight from California to Colorado last week I sat by an older-ish gentleman who was on his way to a conference somewhere in the mid-west. During part of the flight I pulled the novel out of my bag and opened to where I had last left off. Noticing how worn and yellow the pages were, this gentleman asked how old the book was. He didn't ask WHAT the book was (he may have already seen the cover), but rather, how OLD it was. Different. I rattled off that I had no idea - it was from the library, so it probably looked older than it was because of careless handling (not by librarians, of course). He then explained he had shelves full of books in his house, and said that he owned this one too (okay, show off - I'm young, and have plenty of time to buy books). So, sensing that he was just maybe suggesting that those who owned books were somehow better than others I decided to just tell him how it is - I'm unemployed and can't afford books, and the library gives me plenty of opportunity to read for free. Discussion over.

I enjoyed the stories of Huck and the trouble he caused while also remembering scenes from the movie The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993) that I haven't seen in who knows how long. You know - the one where pre-Frodo Elijah Wood plays the role of Huck. I felt as if the focus of the book was on the adventures and the relationship between Huck and Jim; honestly I don't think that the book was meant to promote racism, as some critics have claimed.

I did however feel like the flow and feeling of the book changed in its final chapters after Tom Sawyer shows up again (he's also in the beginning of the book). I found I wasn't enjoying it as much and was really rather annoyed with Tom Sawyer - he already has his own book, why does he have to show up now at what is supposed to be (I think) the climax of the story? Huck is the main character; I don't think he should suddenly share this role with another at the very end.

I did a little research online today and found an article entitled "Mark Twain vs. Tom Sawyer" (found here). In the article are a few quotes from the author of Mark Twain: A Life, Ron Powers, as well as Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway stated: "If you must read it you must stop where...Jim is stolen from the boys [and imprisoned by a slave catcher]. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating," and Powers said "
Huckleberry Finn endures as a consensus masterpiece despite these final chapters." I kind of feel like I agree. Nonetheless, overall I thought it was a fun book to read.

And by the way - the gentleman on the plane wasn't really disagreeable - we spent the last 45 minutes quietly racing to see who could finish their sudoku puzzle in the airline's magazine first!

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