quarta-feira, março 18, 1981

Folksy Ways: "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain


(Original Review, 1981-03-18)



I guess “Ulysses” pushes the envelope of “Literature was made for man, not man for literature” but I like to give the benefit of the doubt to books especially if not only do they have a sustained critical reputation, but if people whose opinions I respect think the book is great stuff. When I was venting some of my frustration about “Ulysses” and “Finnegans Wake” to a well-read musician friend, she just gently suggested that if I let myself listen to the music of the language it might change my perception. When it comes to ”Finnegans Wake” I couldn’t do it…I’m still deaf.

I guess Huck is a little trying as a voice, especially in the beginning, but I think it is one of the greatest books ever written, or I ever read. Tom Sawyer is OK, but HF is brilliant. In the most direct way possible Huck learns about the absolute humanity of Jim but also Huck feels guilty because Jim is property and in the South, being property trumped being human. In its quiet, folksy way it presents us with something intensely evil face to face with something just as intensely familiar and homey. All those people, many of them, are such fine nice people so vividly portrayed as such, except that the vilest evil that they live with every day, and have created and sustain, is totally invisible to them. As a really human document, a damning one, it has never been done so well and so quietly. Freud drew attention to the uncanny in his short but influential essay, as having just that quality of being so homey and yet being alien, so human but so inhuman.

Not totally sure about the ending though; it was contrived in a way, BUT I was very impressed by the late chapter scene where the doctor, clearly a good and fine man, will not go seek help for a sick child because he was afraid that Jim might run off. Again that MONSTRUOUS blindness vs the child. And the scene where the men, the good folks of the town, were talking about what to do with Jim, some wanting to lynch him, not for running away, but because of his ingratitude!!! And then deciding not to kill him because after all he is someone's property and they might be held liable for his dollars’ worth!!! Nevertheless Huck comes of age.

I would agree more with the idea that all American fiction is a response to Huck Finn if it hadn't been Hemingway who said it, but I will not accept that anyone else could possibly admire the book more than I do. Still, the ending is the weakest part. I don't know who could have written a better ending but facts are facts and by the time we get to the last few chapters the really astonishing novelties have already been spent where they'd do the most good.



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