July 29, 2013 9:40:22 AM
Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]
"A classic is a book that people praise but don't read."
-- Mark Twain
Drew and Carter Pack stood on the dock. Each, being boys of 7 and 4 years, had shed their shirts, shoes and socks. Drew, with fishing pole in hand, caught fish while Carter scooped minnows in a cup.
Another glance later, Carter's curly blonde hair dripped rivulets down his forehead. Drew had mud smeared clear across his thin boy back.
The boys brought "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" to mind. Was there ever a boy that didn't want to jump in the water, not caring of mud or slimy things, or gather driftwood and float a raft? Was there ever such a boy?
If you haven't read "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," this is your chance. On Wednesday, Sept. 18 at noon, the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library will host Dr. Tom Richardson discussing Mark Twain's book.
Dr. Richardson is dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, professor of English, and holds the Eudora Welty Chair at Mississippi University for Women. Tom and his wife, Emma, have also reviewed many books for Catfish Alley magazine.
I visited with Dr. Richardson about his upcoming book talk and learned that Twain's novel is about a lot more than catching fish, floating rafts and dipping minnows. In fact, Tom suggested if entertainment is all you get out of the book you're missing a lot.
"Huckleberry Finn is first of all an entertaining story that is cleverly and humorously told through the naive and loving voice of its main character. The novel can be read on several levels, so it appeals to a broad audience. Most significantly, though, it speaks to issues of the human condition that continue to be meaningful to generation after generation of readers."
When asked what that human condition could be, the gentle and kindly English professor responded quoting the words of Huck himself, "Human beings can be awful cruel to one another."
Dr. Richardson plans to explore key issues important to modern readers, such as individual identity, social justice and social order, and the authority of texts as well as the art and structure of Twain's novel.
Clearly, Dr. Richardson admires Twain's ability to use humor to disarm the reader and to engage the reader with the characters and to make them care about the character's conflicts.
Just as clearly, Mark Twain would appreciate Dr. Richardson having been asked to present "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" when, shortly after its publication, the library in Concord, Mass. banned the book. Twain wrote the library a letter saying, among other things, that he would benefit from the ban as having one book in the library prevented the sale of hundreds of others and that purchasers would now actually read the book out of curiosity.
For your reading pleasure, the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library reports 100 copies of "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" are available through the library's consortium, as well as e-books and movie versions. Booksellers offer Kindle and Nook downloads from $2.99 and print versions. See you in September.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.