It Is A Huckleberry Finn Weekend
Going back to Mark Twain’s original classic this weekend after starting a book about the famed work of Mark Twain days ago. (This all is so much more interesting than Donald Trump.)
This week I selected Huck Finn’s America by Andrew Levy from my shelves. It was published last year and its idea is that contemporary readers have been misunderstanding Huckleberry Finn for decades. We think of Mark Twain’s grand work as a boyhood adventure book–that is the way I viewed it when first reading it about age twelve in Hancock, Wisconsin. There were also clearly tough issues about race that made me aware that book was also talking about a very long sad chapter in our national story. But in his book Levy argues Huck Finn was written at a time when Americans were nervous about youth violence and “uncivilized” bad boys, and a debate was raging about education, popular culture, and responsible parenting — casting Huck’s now-celebrated “freedom” in a very different and very modern light. On issues of race, on the other hand, Twain’s lifelong fascination with minstrel shows and black culture inspired him to write a book not about civil rights, but about race’s role in entertainment and commerce, the same features upon which much of our own modern consumer culture is also grounded. In Levy’s vision, Huck Finn has more to say about contemporary children and race that we have ever imagined—if we are willing to hear it.
So when I got to chapter four of Levy’s truly engaging read I thought perhaps I should also read the classic again by Twain. James pulled a copy from his collection and now I plan to relax this weekend outside with Huckleberry Finn and a modern way to evaluate him.
Now to make a pot of coffee—will be back to blogging on Monday.