Sunday, May 13

Dusty Twain, Dusty Durrell

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn! Bought a 1964 pocket paperback complete with illustrations and some really swell marginalia, including, “Huck thinks Tom’s great” and “Huck shows diplomacy” and “Huck rationalizes his mental conflict” and “Huck apologizes, very out of order because a white person never lowers himself to a negroe [sic]” and on.

Also procured a 1969 paperback edition of Lawrence Durrell’s Justine, the first book in The Alexandria Quartet. I’ve been meaning to pick this up for some time. Of the books I have read that are near and dear to my father’s heart (The Magic Mountain, The Magus, The Deptford Trilogy, Le Grand Meaulnes, among others) I have nothing but love. He highly recommended the Alexandria Quartet about 18 months ago and I have been slow to comply. The first page, woo-ha:
The sea is high again today, with a thrilling flush of the wind. In the midst of winter you can feel the inventions of Spring. A sky of hot nude pearl until midday, crickets in sheltered places, and now the wind unpacking the great planes, ransacking the greats planes. . . .

I have escaped to this island with a few books and the child—Melissa’s child. I do not know why I used the word “escape." The villagers say jokingly that only a sick man would choose such a remote place to rebuild. Well, then, I have come here to heal myself, if you like to put it that way. . . .

At night when the wind roars and the child sleeps quietly in its wooden cot by the echoing chimney-piece I light a lamp and walk about, thinking of my friend—of Justine and Nessim, of Melissa and Balthazar. I return link by link along the iron chains of memory to the city which we inhabitated so briefly together: the city which used us as its flora—precipitated in us conflicts which were hers and which we mistook for our own: beloved Alexandria!

I have had to come so far away from it in order to understand it all! Living on this bare promontory, snatched every night from darkness by Arcturus, far from the lime-laden dust of those summer afternoons, I see at last that none of us is properly to be judged for what happened in the past. It is the city which should be judged though we, its children, must pay the price.

Saturday, May 12

Some Links


Tom Ashbrook recently sat down with Jon Clinch, author of the new novel Finn. The novel covers in great detail an aspect of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that Mark Twain focused on only glancingly, the story of Pap, Huck's father. In Clinch's telling Pap comes from fairly noble beginnings and though he is a virulent racist he has a child with (and perhaps even loves) a stolen slave. As you might have guessed this slave, Mary, is Huck Finn's mother, which adds an interesting dynamic to his relationship with Jim. Now, regardless of Twain's own designs of Pap's backstory, what we have in the original text is a fairly broad outline of a drunk, racist, evil father and so Clinch had quite a bit of room to work with. I applaud him for attempting to flesh out one of the great villains of American literature, and for doing it in the form of a dark, by some accounts disturbed, novel. I am fascinated by this book. I want to read this book. But first, I must re-vist the original text. Should be fun.

Los Angeles Times Finn review
Washington Post Finn review

Also stopping by On Point with Tom Ashbrook this week, Clive James.