Book Trailer The Noble Train

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sailing Down the Mississippi with Huck and Jim

Huckleberry Finn is the first modern American novel. No it dasnt Huck. Yes it is Jim. Why is that? Because in the rough colloquialisms of eighteenth century America is the country as seen by two nederwells that is really all Americans are. Even though we currently have our head so far up the Internet we can't see light ,there is still this natural world that is America and we lament for having lost so much. We stare out the window at the sunlight and the storm clouds approaching the way Huck watches a storm over the river and sees the trees in the distance, swaying in the storm wind.

Peculiarly American. We are children of the country and see it with a childs eye. I had to walk back from a flat tire today on my bike way out in the country. Three mile walk past barns with and empty silos with the hot tar sticky underfoot. Cars whooshed by. People glued to their cellphones. The same way Huck and Jim watch life whoosh by on the Mississippi, people glued to their commerce, their destination.  But we have a view of the country from the underside. We get to watch all these people and see the big river and the big sky that Huck stares up to and smokes under the constellations of creation

These moments are in our soul.  Much the same as we yearn to be in the sun and kick off our shoes and walk along the beach. Huck and Jim are modern Americans dissatisfied with  the powers that be and the economic system that has used and abused them. Jim the product of a slave system and Huck the orphan who inherits six thousand dollars and never sees a dime of it. Widow Douglas cannot reform him and he pushes back against bourgeois life even though he doesn't even know what it is. Same as the Americans  vaguely dissatisfied with the trappings of bourgeois more than ever.

But even the structure of the novel is modern. Short chapters of character driven scenes. First chapter we get background and are introduced to Hucks father who  is his tormentor. He occupies the lower strata's of eighteenth century society and forces Huck to run for his life and begin his journey down the river. This is all set in motion in the first four chapters. No meandering, just let's get on with it. And finally there is the patois of Jim and Huck which is the way we like our books and movies. Authentically spoken voices of the common folk. And funny, really funny, the wry humor of the country.

You simply cannot write a modren  American novel and not owe a big debt to Mark Twain.
Rocket Man blasts off this summer

Books by William Hazelgrove