Monday, June 30th, 2008
I met Ellen and Sylvia for dinner this evening in Montclair -- Sylvia started art camp at the Montclair Art Museum today, where she is happily learning how to draw animals. In one of her classes they are doing a group project, a sculpture of Huckleberry Finn -- Sylvia has never read it, so while we were eating we decided to swing by our favorite bookstore and pick up a copy... of course it is hard to leave there without a bunch of books. Our haul:
- Huckleberry Finn
- Tom Sawyer -- nice to have this on hand for when she's read Huck Finn -- it is a lesser book of course, but I remember it being a fun read.
- The Prince and the Pauper, to round out the kid-friendly Twain selections.
- The Golden Compass -- people keep recommending this to me; I should take a look. Sylvia is loving the Harry Potter books these days, and this seemed like it would be in a similar vein.
- Teddy Roosevelt -- Sylvia's pick (after she found out that no, we're not buying Dragonology today), from a series of biographies of important Americans. Teddy Roosevelt is, she explained, her favorite president: I'm not totally clear on whether this is because 26 is her favorite number, or vice versa.
- The Cave -- my pick.
Sylvia and I are taking a break from Despereaux to read Huck Finn -- she was a little skeptical when I suggested that, but two chapters in she is totally enthralled. And me too: I haven't read this book since I was about Sylvia's age or a couple of years older, but it feels like an old shoe.
Wednesday, July second, 2008
Tonight we were reading Chapter 6, about Huck's pap keeping him locked in the cabin upriver from town -- toward the end of the chapter Pap is blind drunk:
I don't know how long I was asleep, but all of a sudden there was an awful scream and I was up. There was pap looking wild, and skipping around every which way and yelling about snakes. He said they was crawling up his legs; and then he would give a jump and scream, and say one had bit him on the cheek -- but I couldn't see no snakes. He started and run round and round the cabin, hollering "Take him off! take him off! he's biting me on the neck!" I never see a man look so wild in the eyes. Pretty soon he was all fagged out, and fell down panting; then he rolled over and over wonderful fast, kicking things every which way, and striking and grabbing at the air with his hands, and screaming and saying there was devils a-hold of him. He wore out by and by, and laid still a while, moaning. Then he laid stiller, and didn't make a sound. I could hear the owls and the wolves away off in the woods, and it seemed terrible still. He was laying over by the corner. By and by he raised up part way and listened, with his head to one side. He says, very low:
"Tramp -- tramp -- tramp; that's the dead; tramp -- tramp -- tramp; they're coming after me; but I won't go. Oh, they're here! don't touch me -- don't! hands off -- they're cold; let go. Oh, let a poor devil alone!"
Then he went down on all fours and crawled off, begging them to let him alone, and he rolled himself up in his blanket and wallowed in under the old pine table, still a-begging; and then he went to crying. I could hear him through the blanket.
Well I wasn't sure Sylvia was ready for the notion of delirium tremens, so I said he must be having a nightmare; she replied, "Yeah, or maybe too much whisky." So, picking up on more than I was giving her credit for. Earlier in the chapter when Pap was going on about what a good man he was, Sylvia pointed out that he really wasn't, and that Judge Thatcher understood that, but "the new judge is kind of weird."
Friday, July 4th, 2008
Towards the end of Chapter 8, Jim is reminiscing to Huck about how he's had trouble holding on to money.
"Yes. You know that one-laigged nigger dat b'longs to old Misto Bradish? Well, he sot up a bank, en say anybody dat put in a dollar would git fo' dollars mo' at de en' er de year. Well, all de niggers went in, but dey didn't have much. I wuz de on'y one dat had much. So I stuck out for mo' dan fo' dollars, en I said 'f I didn' git it I'd start a bank mysef. Well, o' course dat nigger want' to keep me out er de business, bekase he says dey warn't business 'nough for two banks, so he say I could put in my five dollars en he pay me thirty-five at de en' er de year.
"So I done it. Den I reck'n'd I'd inves' de thirty-five dollars right off en keep things a-movin'. Dey wuz a nigger name' Bob, dat had ketched a wood-flat, en his marster didn' know it; en I bought it off'n him en told him to take de thirty-five dollars when de en' er de year come; but somebody stole de wood-flat dat night, en nex day de one-laigged nigger say de bank's busted. So dey didn' none uv us git no money."
Sylvia observes, "They could go on Judge Judy..."
Sunday, July 6th, 2008
Tonight we read Chapter 11, which contains one of my clearest memories from reading the book as a child: Huck has disguised himself in a girl's clothing and is scouting out the news in town. He is found out by the woman whom he asks for gossip (Judith Loftus, a newcomer to town; somehow I had in my memory that the woman was Tom's Aunt Polly), when she notices that he throws and catches like a boy. Sylvia thought it was absolutely hilarious that Huck would try to thread a needle by pushing the needle onto the thread; she was still laughing about that ten minutes later.
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008
Sylvia comments that the King and the Duke's plan to perform a Shakespearean exhibition (featuring the balcony scene, with the King as Juliet, and the sword fight from Richard III, and the King doing Hamlet's soliloquy) reminds her a lot of Moominsummer Madness. And I think she's on to something; Jansson could very well be referring directly to this scene. That's assuming Huckleberry Finn was translated and available in Finland in the early 20th C., which seems to me like a reasonable assumption.
An interesting moment was explaining to Sylvia why it would probably not be a good idea to read Huckleberry Finn out loud while we were on the airplane flying to California.
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