Posts Tagged ‘Mark Twain’

11th Decade Roundup!

It’s that time of my reading life again, where I review the last ten books I read, pretend I can remember them all, and then take stock of what happened. It’s also that time of my blogging life where I’m incredibly frustrated because WordPress has eaten three of my blog posts in the last two days. C’mon, guys, get it together.

This was a pretty good batch of books. It was a good mix of books I knew I’d enjoy, books that were just enough of a digression from my usual taste to be a challenge without being annoying, and books that I really liked but never would have read otherwise. It’s pretty much what you’d want in a book grouping.

I started out with What I Loved, which was fine while I was reading it, but very much on the “meh” portion of the scale. It wasn’t awful but I didn’t love it. I’m glad I read it, I suppose, but I doubt I’ll read it again. Another book in the category of, “glad I read it, now let’s move on” was The Girls of Slender Means. It was more enjoyable than I expected it to be, but I’d be surprised if I ever revisited it.

Then there were the books about two very different boys who were actually pretty similar, in some ways. Huck Finn is always a classic, and if you dialed up Huck’s delinquency and sense of adventure and combined it with a bit of crazy, you’d have Francie Brady of The Butcher Boy

Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye was a bit of an emotional read, but it was okay because it was followed by two zany books by Douglas Adams. It’s always fun to revisit Dirk Gently and his friends, and it’s even more fun to try and explain what you’re reading to people who don’t know Douglas Adams.

Finally, I was thoroughly sickened and shocked by Lolitabefore being captivated by some Murakami magic in Kafka on the ShoreI rounded out the bunch with the amazing Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. I think Vonnegut is swiftly becoming one of my favorite authors.

My favorite book out the batch was definitely Breakfast of Champions. Vonnegut knows how to spin a phrase and play with language at least as well as Douglas Adams does, but there’s something about the way he weaves chaos through order and brings crazy insights into his work that I adore.

The reward for biggest shock goes to Lolita. I went in with bravado thinking that I was prepared and certainly wouldn’t be shocked like all those prudes who are sickened by books about sex. I was wrong.

And the book I liked the least was probably What I Loved. Like I said, it’s not that I didn’t like it, it’s just that it didn’t do anything for me. Not every book can.

Now I’m off to (hopefully) catch up on my post for the next book, House of Leaves, assuming WordPress stops eating my posts.

Book #102: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

I grew up just a few hours from Mark Twain’s stomping grounds in Hannibal, Missouri. I remember visiting the city a few times as a kid while we were on a family trip to the Ozarks. We went to the cave from Tom Sawyer (I have a story about it, but I guess I’ll save it for when I read that book), walked along the river, rode the Mark Twain steamboat, explored the bluffs and river banks around Hannibal, all the stuff. Sometimes while I was reading Huck Finn, I felt like I had an added layer of appreciation because I’ve seen where Twain was writing from and can visualize a lot of what might have influenced him.

That said, I went through a Mississippi River phase when I was a kid, where I liked reading books about people going on the ‘Mighty Mississippi.’ My grandparents took me to the locks and dams on the river, I went to a couple museums, I watched some shows about it. But somehow even though I read the kid adaptation of Tom Sawyer, I never read Huckleberry Finn.

I’ve talked before about how I hate when things are written in dialect. It doesn’t matter if it’s something like Jim’s way of talking in Huckleberry Finn or the crazy mess of “what the heck??” that was Trainspotting, I do not like it. It doesn’t really add anything to the story for me and I have trouble figuring out what characters are saying and it takes me out of the story. I knew that I was probably going to have some issues with Jim just on the dialect front, but I tried to psyche myself up for it as much as I could.

Thankfully, the dialect issue wasn’t that bad for me this time. It was annoying, but I could still enjoy the story. And, to be honest, that’s what I did. I didn’t really want to get too analytical about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I read it with the awareness that it’s really controversial and that it captures the racial tensions and issues of the society it’s portraying really well, and winds up coming up with some interesting conclusions about race, but I didn’t focus on those issues. Huck Finn was a great adventure story, and it took me back to all our family vacations at the Ozarks, exploring the bluffs and valleys along the Mississippi, and all the pretending I used to do about running away from home and living off the land.

I enjoyed Huck Finn for the story. Maybe I should have read more critically, and maybe I should say more things about it here now, and maybe I will do that later on. I certainly have some thoughts about its language and the controversy surrounding it that I might want to bring up later.

For now, however, I just enjoyed Huck Finn, and I sort of want to go visit Hannibal and maybe build a raft and float away down the Mississippi for awhile.

Rating: ***
Up Next: Cat’s Eye

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