Friday, May 29, 2015

Catch up

My husband was gone on a trip and now he is back.  I had to hold up this end of things by myself in a major way, but I lost weight while he was gone.  No cooking for a man--equals weight-loss--who would have guessed.  Doing all the labor around house--equals weight-loss--who would have guessed.  Having no time for knitting baby blankets equals weight-loss...  Getting hardly any reading done...

No, no, some reading got done, in the last month.   I read all of  "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."  

Comments tell us that this is a very important work.

"Referring to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, H. L. Mencken noted that his discovery of this classic American novel was 'the most stupendous event of my whole lif'; Ernest Hemingway declared that 'all modern American literature stems from this one book,' while T. S. Eliot called Huck 'one of the permanent symbolic figures of fiction, not unworthy to take a place with Ulysses, Faust, Don Quixote, Don Juan, Hamlet.'"

"A seminal work of American Literature that still commands deep praise and still elicits controversy, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is essential to the understanding of the American soul. The recent discovery of the first half of Twain's manuscript, long thought lost, made front-page news. And this unprecedented edition, which contains for the first time omitted episodes and other variations present in the first half of the handwritten manuscript, as well as facsimile reproductions of thirty manuscript pages, is indispensable to a full understanding of the novel. The changes, deletions, and additions made in the first half of the manuscript indicate that Mark Twain frequently checked his impulse to write an even darker, more confrontational book than the one he finally published. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title."

It did seem like an important work to me on two fronts.  Twain gives deep insight into the society and its ways, at the time.  It always is the non-fictional aspect of it that draws me.  It is a goldmine in that respect.  It was not very funny to me because of the serious notes, though there were places where I had to bust out.  In the end, Twain lets himself go, however, and we suffer through a protracted, but satisfying, somewhat silly conclusion, which probably means to tell us about the writing process.  (It does bother me, usually, that so much about what is written is about is about writing as a process.)

What Twain explored were the inherent contradictions in the civilizing process.  It seems to me that none of the many females in his real life ever quite succeeded in civilizing him, even though he tried to comply.  Twain, himself, seems to be Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn rolled into one, from what one can read.  Tom has the great imagination and can force his agenda on a situation.  He is not terribly considerate, as he does exercise these strengths. Huck feels inferior to him, feels uncivilized, or only marginally civilized, yet, he is the one who uses his own conscience more and is humane.

Huck's conscience is trying to grapple with what he has learned from civilized people about slavery, and his own experience.  Experience teaches him that love compels him to the side of the abolitionists.  This is traumatic for him, as he can't reconcile the sides.  In the very end, it turns out that a civilized person set the negro free and the point becomes mute.

So much about all that, in my uneducated opinion.  I think I will read the book out loud to my husband, next winter, God willing.

There is another book, I have on the go.  It was recommended by a friend and I am finding it interesting due to its connections to Jewish and Christian thought.  It is quite legalistic, and I have never been one for legalism.  I am more like Huck Finn, there.  Thankfully, Jesus was not like the scribes and pharisees, though they knew some things, too.  As the Jews said:  "He teaches with authority, not like the scribes."  

Chofetz Chaim: A Lesson a Day: The Concepts and Laws of Proper Speech Arranged for Daily Study

We are told that the author is a Rabbi from Poland from the nineteenth century.  The book represents an authoritative summary of Jewish teaching on speech, ranging from avoiding gossip to speaking no unpleasantness in order to have cohesion in the community.  

On one hand, one could call it a meditation on the law.  The Psalmist, at times, rhapsodizes about meditating on the law and therefore being ahead of the game. I think, in our day, we hardly know what he means.  This book can show something of what it means.

But I don't know.  There is, of course, a point, but, sorry to say, it also explains the stoning of the prophets...  not to mention to throwing the Messiah under the bus...  Anyways, I will try to learn what I can and figure out how it applies to us, maybe, and how it does not, maybe.

So much.  I will probably blog about this last one, a bit.

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