20 March 2010

Huck it All

The only way to leave Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with a sense of satisfaction is to know exactly what you are getting yourself into and then read it from cover to cover. Otherwise, the book seems to be ridden with shortcomings and oddities. The book is not perfect by any means. Twain would probably be the first to say that. But what it tries to do, it does well. It successfully navigates the tumultuous and treacherous path that a writer must take, that gap of water over rock and silt and mud where “you can't tell the shape of the river, and you can't see no distance. It got to be very late and still, and then along comes a steamboat up the river” (131). And just out through the fog the whole damned country is burning down so that all you hear are boat horns and screams masked with fife and drum. These sounds, though, can't be covered with triumphant music. They're sounds that drop through your body like a rock through water, breaking not just the meniscus but every layer they encounter until they make ripples in the marrow of your bones. You start shivering and a rivulet of sweat, disguised as a tear, beads on your bottom lip. That’s when you realize you’re about to miss the chance to do something remarkably different. Lucky for us, Twain, through Huck, knew just what he was doing: "I dived—and I aimed to find the bottom, too, for a thirty-foot wheel had got to go over me, and I wanted it to have plenty of room" (131).

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