10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

I picked up this 1997 edition because Random House got its hands on a pile of Twain's manuscript pages that he had edited out to make the book similar in length to Tom Sawyer. Apparently this was done so that Twain's publisher could sell them for the same price and as a "collection." Ah, how to make more money.

Interestingly, with the manuscript pages included, the book sheds more (of the same) light on Huck's thoughts and the attitudes of the people in his life. Missing from the widely known version is a long section where Huck reveals his thoughts about a hypocritical "civilized" society, one that would try to civilize him through schooling but not lift a finger to save him from a viscously abusive father, or one that is built on the slave trade. This, of course, is at the center of the originally published version, as well, so I'm not sure what so ground breaking about Random House's "find" here.

In the end, the version we've been reading all these years is the version Twain signed off on. The many scholars out there who claim this version is Earth-shattering, or "darkly revealing," or whatever, are are full of shit. There is nothing "missing" that would have made it better, or that would help us understand the mind of the writer, or his "process." Many scholars are exaggerating the import of the discovered manuscript pages. Others are outright lying in that aged academic way about their so-called revelations. Perhaps this is because many of them are intellectual leeches without their own imaginations.

Anyway, Huck Finn needs little discussion these days. It's frickin' great.

No comments: