Not too long ago, it popped into my mind that I should reread The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
, which I vaguely remember from college English class was considered to be a masterpiece of American literature. But first, I figured I should read the "prequel", i.e. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
. Of course, I've read both books before, but not recently. Probably sometime during the Eisenhower administration.
I found it a bit difficult getting into Tom Sawyer
. I'm not completely sure what the problem was, but I think Twain's attempt at humor seemed a bit overly expansive and labored. Or perhaps, like several other books I've read recently, it was just difficult getting used to a different writing style. Training one's self to put up with a different style shouldn't be an issue in a well written book, but apparently, for less able readers such as myself (I read at only half the speed required to be successful in college, or so I've often been told), such is the case. I'm not sure about this, however, given that I was able to jump into Sense and Sensibility
with immediate enjoyment, and had no trouble with the Raymond Chandler or Willa Cather books that preceded Tom
by a few weeks. Whatever, eventually, I did begin to enjoy the book rather much and ended up giving it 4*s. Were I able to give +s and -s, I'd likely downgrade it to 4*- or 3*+.
Anyway, this book is essentially a series of tales about the lives of young boys (primarily Tom, of course), perhaps 11 or so, about a century and a half ago, i.e. around 1850. I'm having a bit of a problem gaging their ages because Tom becomes enraptured by a young girl, Becky Thatcher. In my experience, boys don't get girl crazy until about 13, at the earliest. On the other hand, in one episode, Tom gets a loose tooth, which, once pulled out, affords him unique ways to spit and thereby entrance his pals. Well, I guess the last of the molars come out around 12, but how does one spit through a gap at the back of one's jaw? So one might think the tooth was nearer the front of the mouth, in which case Tom would be no more than 10.
Whatever, as I said, the book grew on me as it went along, and I now have adequate background to move on to Huck. As for books about 11-year old boys, I think I rather prefer Penrod
. Penrod isn't quite so labored in its humor and didn't have the additional deficiencies of being quite so racist nor of having some rather out-of-context diatribes interfere with the action, such as the one against people who were not
ardent supporters of capital punishment.