Sunday, March 29, 2009

April 2009 Selection: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The book for our April meeting is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

We will meet at the Plaza Branch Library, in the small meeting room, at 7:00 p.m. on April 24, 2009.  The library is located at 4801 Main Street, Kansas City, MO.

All those who love books and learning more about them are welcome and encouraged to attend.

SEE COMMENTS FOR DISCUSSION OF BOOK AND OUR MEETING.

8 comments:

Michael said...

Is your group still open to new members? I've been looking for a local group and haven't had much luck until now....

Martin Zehr said...

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- there is no The preceding the title- is, for better or worse, one of those great books which rewards the reader who has a detailed knowledge of history, including the 1840s which is its temporal setting, as well as the United States of the 1880s, when it was published.
Martin Zehr

Clif Hostetler said...

This is a response to Michael's comment on April 20. Yes, we are open to new members. I'm sorry I didn't see your comment earlier, because if I had I would have especially invited you to our meeting tonight (April 24). Our next meeting is May 29 to discuss "Brave New World" so you're welcome to attend that meeting.

Clif Hostetler said...

This message was originally posted on the top level, but after our April meeting it has been moved here to be a comment tied to the April meeting announcement.

TUESDAY, APRIL 7, 2009
A Huck Finn resource (posted by Clif)
The following link is to a review of the book, "The Jim Dilemma: Reading Race in Huckleberry Finn." The book, and consequently the review as well, addresses the issue of alleged racism found in the language used in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2838/is_1_34/ai_62258919/
This is an issue that will probably be discussed at our next meeting.

Clif Hostetler said...

This message was originally posted on the top level, but after our April meeting it was moved here to be a comment tied to the April meeting announcement.

MONDAY, APRIL 20, 2009
Dialects within Huck Finn book (by Clif)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an example of a book that is better heard than read, provided a skilled narrator is doing the out loud reading. An Explanatory note written by Mark Twain at beginning of the book states the following:

"In this book a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Missouri negro dialect, the extremest form of the backwoods South-Western dialect; the ordinary "Pike-County" dialect; and four modified varieties of this last. The shading have not been done in a hap-hazard fashion, or by guess-work; but pains-takingly, and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of speech."I am in the process of listening to the book after reading it twice earlier in my life. The speech dialects are much more real in audio format that they ever were reading the text. When reading the text the most pronounced impression is that numerous words need to be misspelled in order convey the dialect.

The audio book edition I'm listening to was published by The Audio Partners and is narrated by Patrick Fraley. The differences in speech dialect are well done by Mr Fraley. Sometimes I think I'm laughing more at Fraley's various versious of the rural dialects than I am at Twain's humor.

Clif Hostetler said...

It's interesting to compare my youthful and adult impressions of this book. When I read it as a child I was enthusiastic about the concept of a preadolescent running away from home, floating down the river and making it on his own. It was also my impression when reading it then that Jim was as young as Huck. I must have glossed over those clues in the book that clearly indicated that Jim was an adult. It's also a reflection of the attitude of the Antebellum South to refer to adult Negro men as "boy."

As an adult the most interesting feature of the book was its portrait of attitudes toward slavery in the Antebellum South. There was no apparent hint of doubt about their acceptance of the institution of slavery. This is supported by Mark Twain's own observation that nobody ever questioned the correctness of slavery in his presence when he was a young boy. I presume that if people from that time were able to comment on the book today they would say that the book exaggerates the strange activities of people from their era by crowding so many wild incidences into one story. On the other hand I think it could be argued that all stories told in the book (except for Tom Sawyer's stage directing near the end) are loosely based upon similar historical happenings.

It's clear to me that Mark Twain's goal in this book was to spin an entertaining yarn, and he had no intent of teaching a morals lesson about slavery. In the context of the late 19th Century readers he was successful. There is no record of criticism during the 19th Century finding anything racist about the book Huckleberry Finn. However, there were a number of critics that complained about the bad grammar and creative spellings used by Twain. The book was even banned from some libraries during the 19th Century because Huck Finn was a bad role model for young people. The objections to the book have changed in the 20th and 21st Century to focus on the issue of racism. Today the book is now sometimes banned because of its racist language. And indeed, the language is racist because the time being depicted was racist.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an example of a book that is better heard than read, provided a skilled narrator is doing the out loud reading. An Explanatory note written by Mark Twain at the beginning of the book states the following:

"In this book a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Missouri negro dialect, the extremest form of the backwoods South-Western dialect; the ordinary "Pike-County" dialect; and four modified varieties of this last. The shading have not been done in a hap-hazard fashion, or by guess-work; but pains-takingly, and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of speech."The audio book edition I listened to was published by The Audio Partners and is narrated by Patrick Fraley. The differences in speech dialect are well done by Mr Fraley. I may have laughed more at Fraley's various versious of the rural dialects than I did at Twain's humor.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book are as follows:

Description of sounds in the night for a little boy alone:
"Then away out in the woods I heard that kind of a sound that a ghost makes when it wants to tell about something that's on its mind and can't make itself understood, and so can't rest easy in its grave, and has to go about that way every night grieving."

Description of life on a raft:
"It's lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened." ......... "We said there warn't no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft."

Description of being in a thunderstorm at night:
"... and next, when it was just about the bluest and blackest - fst! it was a bright as glory and you'd have a little glimpse of tree-tops a-plunging about, away off yonder in the storm, hundreds of yards further than you could see before; dark as sin again in a second, and now you'd hear the thunder let go with an awful crash and then go rumbling, grumbling, tumbling down the sky towards the underside of the world, like rolling empty barrels downstairs, where it's long stairs and they bounce a good deal, you know.

Description of the effect of music during a religious revival camp meeting:
"Music is a good thing; and after all that soul-butter and hogwash I never see it freshen up things so, and sound so honest and bully."

Explanation for the unethical behavior of a con artist who claims royal lineage:
"All I say is, kings is kings, and you got to make allowances. Take them all around, they're a mighty ornery lot. It's the way they're raised."

The thoughts of Huck on being told by a young girl that she will pray for him: "Pray for me! I reckoned if she knowed me she'd take a job that was more nearer her size. But I bet she done it, just the same--she was just that kind. She had the grit to pray for Judus if she took the notion--there warn't no back-down to her, I judge." ..... "I hain't ever seen her since that time that I see her go out of that door; no, I hain't ever seen her since, but I reckon I've thought of her a many and a many a million times, and of her saying she would pray for me; and if ever I'd a thought it would do any good for me to pray for HER, blamed if I wouldn't a done it or bust."

Huck's anguish with his conscience for committing the sin of helping a runaway slave:
"... a person's conscience ain't got no sense, and just goes for him anyway ..." "....All right, then, I'll go to hell."

The explanation for Jim's willingness to go along with Tom's crazy ideas:
"Jim he couldn't see no sense in the most of it, but he allowed we was white folks and knowed better than him;"

Clif Hostetler said...

I just heard a comment yesterday that I thought I would share here. It was, "Anne of Green Gables is the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn of Canada." I suppose that could be shortened to, "Anne is the Huck of Canada." Since I like both books, I find that to be a pleasing prospect.

The following is a quote I found in the July 19, 2008 issue of Newsweek:
"... Why Isn't Anne Shirley Worthy of Huck Finn Status? Even Mark Twain praised "Green Gables," and yet the books are rarely taught in college. Is it academia's own inherent bias against children's books and women authors? Or the fact that it's not as sexy to read about a girl rascal, who, ultimately, is good in the same way as Tom Sawyer? If you have any doubt about good-girl survival rates, just look at how hard it is for Miley Cyrus to walk the line between being a Disney princess and a Vanity Fair pinup. But when it comes to good old-fashioned longevity, it's hard to beat wholesomeness. Which is why it wouldn't hurt if more novelists slipped into Anne's shoes. Or, if they really wanted to be daring, her dress."

Clif Hostetler said...

This is probably old news to any well informed person, but I have to add a note about a recently published book, Who Is Mark Twain? Is is a collection of previously unpublished writing by Mark Twain written late in his life. They are pieces that have been handpicked by Robert Hirst, general editor of the Mark Twain Project at the University of California, Berkeley. NPR had a segment about it on the morning of May 3, 2009. NPR has a review and excerpt from it at the following link:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103671123
I would like to believe that the fact that our Great Books KC group recently discussed Mark Twain was partly responsible for this recent book being published. ;)