Friday, March 4, 2016

November's books (reposted)

#15, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884) and #16, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925).

Another two-fer.

Huck Finn was another book I read in high school that whizzed past my head. Zzzzzzzp! No traces left from the passing. Later, as an adult, I reread it and discovered what Twain was all about: that sharp, funny "American" voice that speaks as if naive but in reality sees the world just fine, thanks. I cannot believe anyone reading this book thinks or thought that Twain advocated slavery or racial inequality. It is of course Huck whose world-view is undone by the discovery that Jim is a man, like any man, not an object to be owned or ordered about.

Then, as now, Twain's bluntness (in Huck's mouth) offended people. He intended to do so, and intended that people stop being racist by confronting the dirty secret of their racism and change. It is a satire, folks!

It is not a young adult novel. I wish people would stop treating it as f it were, simply because Huck is a "young adult." It is a grown-up person's book, and if we recognize that, we'll all be happier and more sensible. Personally, I dislike Tom Sawyer. He is a Ferris Beuller-sort of hero, a show-off and a bully, and I like Huck as a character much better. I know too many Toms and not enough Hucks.

Mrs. Dalloway wasn't the first Woolf novel I read, but the first one I understood. It certainly helped me figure out what Woolf was doing with space and time in her novels, which was the modernist key, I think. Or maybe I am wrong and never got it. But... this novel opened the world of Woolf's writing to me, and coupled wiht Hermoine Lee's brilliant biography, made me understand Woolf's art and voice. Better, actually, than all that talk about Woolf as a feminist and as a woman writer--how about just as a writer, like Twain or Hemingway or any other of the writers on my list.

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