Monday, December 14, 2009

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

I haven't always been a big fan of audiobooks, but I'm starting to see how they can sometimes have real advantages over printed books. Take The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for instance. With bits of dialogue like this, from Jim,

"Say, who is you? Whar is you? Dog my cats ef I didn' hear sumf'n. Well, I know what I's gwyne to do: I's gwyne to set down here and listen tell I hears it agin,"

I blanched at the thought of ever reading the entire book. Then after hearing some recommendations of the audiobook read by Tom Parker (Grover Gardner), I gave it a try. Parker's voice explored every nook and cranny of each accent, which, in an audiobook, was delightful. I have no idea what Parker's actual voice is like; his default in this case was a warm and personable Arkansas sound, reminiscent of jazz legend Bob Dorough. And, with Parker's help, I fell in love with the story.

Though the book has its flaws (I could've done without Tom Sawyer's intervention towards the end), I came to realize that Huck's voice is what makes it so special, and so much more involving the The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. While Tom is a trickster, always gleefully gaming the system, Huck doesn't wish to bother anyone; he wants nothing more than to be free. Free of the confines of polite society; free of the clutches of his drunken, abusive father; free of the settled life. It makes perfect sense that he would befriend Jim, who, of course, craves a much more fundamental kind of freedom. Huck eventually has to decide whether he can live outside of society itself, and this is what makes the story so subversive for its time, and for ours: sometimes that's the only way to do the right thing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Uncle Bob! So fun that you mentioned him, Joel. And I'm going to listen to this audiobook for sure. I've never read Huck Finn.