Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's not about two clean kids who play pranks

We had our second of three tests in Math tonight. I suppose I did fine. My mind was on other matters. As I walked away, the teacher whispered that she had been looking forward to reading my creative word problems all week. I said she might be disappointed; I didn't do anything silly this time around. Not depressed, exactly; just harried, and morose, and lacking lustre.

Awaking from the long night of what seemed, but was not, nonentity, at once into the very regions of fairy-land—into a palace of imagination—into the wild dominions of monastic thought and erudition—it is not singular that I gazed around me with a startled and ardent eye—that I loitered away my boyhood in books, and dissipated my youth in reverie; but it is singular that as years rolled away, and the noon of manhood found me still in the mansion of my fathers—it is wonderful what stagnation there fell upon the springs of my life—wonderful how total an inversion took place in the character of my commonest thought. The realities of the world affected me as visions, and as visions only, while the wild ideas of the land of dreams became, in turn,—not the material of my every-day existence-but in very deed that existence utterly and solely in itself.
---the narrator of Edgar Allen Poe's short story "Berenice," describing me to a perfect T. Hopefully I won't be performing any needless dental work on unwilling loved ones, unlike that guy.


Speaking of the classics, he seamlessly segued, I recently finished listening to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in my car. It's long been a favorite of mine, nearly a perfect book. I won't presume to "review" the greatest American novel of all time here. I will make the following observation, though. I think that if you asked most people, they would describe Tom Sawyer as one of literature's clever characters, a sharp trickster always one step ahead of the common, deluded ruck of people. I further imagine that conventional wisdom holds Tom Sawyer to be a noble and good character.

Actually, at least in this book, Sawyer is a complete dunderhead, an ill-informed fool whose infatuation with his own fancies puts his friends' freedom and lives at needless risk. Worse, although he does volunteer to help (though he doesn't actually help) Huck free Jim, he does it only because he knows that Jim's "rightful" owner has died and granted Jim freedom in her will. Yes, it seems to me that Tom Sawyer's a flag-flying square, believing everything he reads and not caring whose skins he risks as long as he has a little fun. He's the ancestor of the frat boy, the protester-basher, Uncle Sam's favorite cannon fodder. It's actually Huck --- unschooled, unclothed Huck, to whom lying comes as natural as breathing --- who is one of literature's most clever and compassionate characters. Huck feels sorry for all those hurt or hunted, even the frauds (who try to sell Jim behind Huck's back) when they are tarred and feathered. (Tarring and feathering as a historical punishment was generally not a joke; hot tar burns skin.)

In short: fuck Tom Sawyer.


I'm so tired.

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