Monday, October 30, 2017

On Beginning To Reread Huck Finn


Can anyone disagree with this?

I’ve just started rereading my favourite novel, which, unlike (say) Don Quixote, is an effortless pleasure to read from first word to last, and which, like Don Quixote though in different ways, is a work of world class great literature.

In fact, I note that when Huck and Twain pooh pooh “the books” Tom Sawyer cites as authority for his claims about what’s proper for “high toned” gangs of marauding murderers to do, he names Don Quixote as one such book. 

So there’s no question I’m rereading Huck Finn. The point up for disagreement is whether it’s as great as I claim. By the way, one aspect of its greatness is the magnificent evocation of Huck by means of his “voice,” voice being a metaphor for how he emerges for us as we “listen” to him by his narration. 

For example:

.... Well, I can tell you it made me all over trembly and feverish, too, to hear him, because I begun to get it through my head that he WAS most free—and who was to blame for it? Why, ME. I couldn't get that out of my conscience, no how nor no way. It got to troubling me so I couldn't rest; I couldn't stay still in one place. It hadn't ever come home to me before, what this thing was that I was doing. But now it did; and it stayed with me, and scorched me more and more. I tried to make out to myself that I warn't to blame, because I didn't run Jim off from his rightful owner; but it warn't no use, conscience up and says, every time, "But you knowed he was running for his freedom, and you could a paddled ashore and told somebody." That was so—I couldn't get around that noway. That was where it pinched....

I get such a shiver of pleasure when I listen to Huck talk to me. Though different of course, but it happens that get the same shiver of pleasure when I listen to Bobby Bland sing.

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