Saturday, August 17, 2013

Huckleberry Finn's Old Man

by Jon Clinch
Published by Random House
3 Out of 5 Stars

Well, I'm not really sure what to say about Finn. I can't say that I loved it, nor can I say that I hated it. I wish that I had read Huckleberry Finn before reading the book so that I could make more comparisons between the two, and I would have known more about the story line that inspired Clinch. 

I admire that Clinch didn't try to imitate Mark Twain's writing style; to have done so would have robbed his portrayal of Finn (who I understand, even in Twain's work, is hinted at being a dark, morally bankrupt character) of authenticity. However, Finn is so bleak a character that I really couldn't get into his story. Had he taken more initiative, I might have cared more. Instead, Finn bullies his way through life, allowing himself to be carried along by events rather than attempt to influence those events. I think that is intentional as Finn is like the river that provides him with his identity and his livelihood--cutting its own path through the land, a path that is not always the best or most obvious. 

There are some intriguing twists--Finn's black sheep status in a wealthy family, the sadistic and racist Judge Finn (who is the true villain of the novel), the revelation that Huckleberry is a mulatto. While I can't praise the novel, I can admire the craft and care that went into its writing, and I don't think Mark Twain would have been the least bit offended. In fact, I suspect he would have been delighted with Clinch's original take on the story of Pap Finn.

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