Sunday, October 03, 2010

Huckleberry Finn


Well, I k'n stend it no mo' peeps.

It was a good book, and Mark Twain has shown his capacity to bring out the different accents along the Mississippi very well, and I daresay that's a nation (hat tip: Twain) tough job. The story starts off kind of interesting with Huck's brilliantly hatched plan to escape from pap, his dad, including a red-herring in the scheme. His discovery of Jim, the nigger, and their times together are fun to read. The first half of the story is mostly Huck's thoughts with the story itself lying in the background. It all sort of acts as a forerunner to the main debate in Huck's head over whether or not to blow a whistle on the escaped nigger. Through Huck, Twain deals with the issue of slavery with the simplicity of a 14 year old. Huck figures he'd feel just as bad if he told on Jim as if he didn't and so he saw no point in telling on him. In another instance, Huck had been 'sivilized' by Miss Watson who had made him pray and said he'd get the things he wanted if only he prayed. And so he prayed for some downright essential things like a fishing rod or two, and seeing he didn't get that upon praying, he figured it wasn't worth taking all that trouble to pray. The latter half of the story however moves out of the realm of Huck's thoughts and his fight with his own conscience and into a bunch of farcical episodes with two fraudsters. Their get-rich-quick schemes are fantastic, the folks they hoodwink are made out to be complete dunces, and you sort of feel like you are reading the script of a bollywood comedy movie. After the fraudsters, Twain creates an opportunity to bring Tom into this novel. At first, I was thrilled at the prospect of Huck and Tom re-uniting but Tom, in this book, just turns out to be maniacally obsessed with making a Rube Goldberg machine out of the plan to free Jim from his latest captors. That line of narration gets tedious after a point, and Huck completely loses character. Initially you are treated to this delightful child who learns life lessons through his voyages on the Mississippi and battles with his own conscience. But in the end he is just reduced to Tom's nodding sidekick, much as he was in the earlier novel Tom Sawyer. So I was left with the impression Twain started of well but then ran out of ideas so that the novel kinda devolved into a farce. Nevertheless, the first half makes it worth a read. However, just like Tom Sawyer, the novel is loaded to the brim with belief in the supernatural and the occult and after a point, you are almost sure that in any situation that gets too complicated for the author to wiggle his way out of, someone's going to come up with some supernatural belief as a way to disentangle the mess. I rate the book better than Tom Sawyer as it had some depth to it in parts whereas Tom Sawyer was almost entirely just a collection of superstitions. Also, there is good humour in both books although you figure out the patterns soon enough. For instance, a lot of jokes hinge on replacing the word stealing with the word borrowing. Twain also manages to highlight the seamless transition that kids can make from the real world to the imaginary as contained in their ability to let on. For a wonderful illustration of child's seamless transition in emotional states, see this picture:

Finally, both books have a very slow pace of events, and lots of conversations of an obscure and arbitrary nature thanks to all the superstitions, so that makes it a little difficult to read in long stretches. I think I will give a rest to fiction for a while.

I think I was irrational to say I'd review one book a week as there's too many variables involved in determining when I finish a book. The blog, however, will continue with reviews. Things may be slow for the next month and a half as there are some major shifts occurring on my educational/career front. But I will keep at reading, and reviewing.

Upcoming review: Economics in one lesson by Henry Hazlitt

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