Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ghost Busted

Alas the ghost at our economic dinner table, that whom some may see but none speak of, is the defective notion that job creation, as most consider it, is a matter of ramping up manufacturing. Get production moving again, the conventional think, and recovery will follow in due time. Our ghost whispers however that the country has no manufacturing capacity to speak of (some ten percent of GDP when last seen), having off-loaded the great majority of our small factories, clothing mills, and machine shops to Asia decades ago.

The attendant problem is that what we DO make, things like shitty automobiles and hi-tech weapons systems, no one either wants to buy, or has money to pay for now.

As a thought experiment--how many people do you know who are directly involved in a US-based manufacturing business? I can't think of a one. My friends are educators and lawyers, students and cooks, writers, medical personnel, nannies, promotion administrators, museum staffers, editorial and advertising executives. My old friend Bob has worked for 35 years for a paper company in Cleveland that produces sanitary products for hospitals. It moved production to China (literally the machines themselves) over two years ago. That's it for me. You?

This lack of any manufacturing base even embarrassed the previous regime enough so that it attempted to reclassify fast food production (that is--the fabrication of hamburgers) as manufacturing jobs. Times being what they were, they probably succeeded.

The news business, institutionally dedicated to the needs of its corporate parents, and starting in the Reagan years, cheer-led the way to our current status as a low-wage, anti-union, "service sector" industrial backwater. We can quibble about the reasons for the Great Downturn; the over-consumption beyond household needs (cheered for years by the financial press), the nutty financial instruments, the absence of oversight and the duty to care. However, when the chapters are written in hindsight, I think it will be clear that our current, sudden reckoning is just our standard of living finally accounting for the fact that the nation has produced very little of value in the last twenty years.

Consequently, any jobs created now by any measures from Washington will be by necessity government jobs, either direct or via contract. Put another way, you can't send people to work in empty factory buildings. (Well, you can, but no one but the Fed is going to pay them for being there until some machinery is put in and making stuff people need.

Here is our chief executive's big dilemma, all the worst for being one which most on either side of the aisle pretend not to notice. This is where infrastructure spending will do the most good, but not for years. It seems to me that the tenderness with which the criminal banking industry has been treated so far (and I am in favor of a draconian review of its reasons for living) is in recognition of the fact that, of all of the nations' enterprises, it is, technically speaking, the most functional world-level institution we've got. This is, of course, really fucked-up, but there you have it.

Personally, I think there are huge job gains ahead in agriculture (nearly none of them incumbent upon gaining that management degree) but that awaits a comprehensive re-do of farm subsidies. I also think a domestic clothing industry can come back (one thing that'll fit easily into all those empty factories), but we will have to set up a trade barrier or two to do it. In other words, the pain is going to get a lot worse, and the GOP (judging by its herd mentality in the last 48) fall into inevitable heat-death, before real changes can be made.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Art Class

Al Giordano says it all here, but I just want to add my voice to the appreciation of an artist at work. President Obama's courting of the GOP has managed to bind them even tighter to that ugly place of their own design, and reduced their options accordingly. His TV appearance after his practically unprecedented meeting on the hill yesterday showed a serious, busy man on the people's business. The GOP can only answer with a bunch of fatheads with melting faces clustered around a microphone.

That the Repubs are making this stand now tells me that they see their own hand as a losing one, or rather that they lack the resources to carry on a united front after any early loss. They are going for broke now, and hoping a silly press corps bails them out.

I like too how the president taunts them with their own supposed advantages. Don't listen to Rush Limbaugh he tells the Senate yay-hoos, I'll watch you diss me on FOX News and feel bad he reportedly said to the House same. This mainly sends the simple message, You don't scare me, and also dares them to stick with exactly those people who can do them no good at all.

It will also have the happy effect of goading said noise machine into dumber and dumber fits of rage as the weeks pass into months.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Huckleberry Finn, Chapters III & IV

Months pass, winter comes. Tom's pirate gang disbands after a few episodes of chasing hogs and bullying younger children in lieu of robbing and kidnapping merchants.

As time goes by, Huck gradually finds civilized life more agreeable. Alas, one day, after another omen of bad luck, Huck sees tracks in the snow outside the Widow's house and recognizes a familiar mark in them. He immediately runs to Judge Thatcher, the trustee of his fortune, and without saying why, insists on signing over all his money to the Judge's legal possession.

Though his father was rumored dead, Huck knows from the footprints that he is back in town, and he asks Jim to divine the old man's intentions with a conjuring piece. The message is inconclusive, and when Huck enters his bedroom that night he finds his father, pap, waiting for him.


Chapter III bookends Huck's experiences in Tom's gang with those of the religion of his guardians. In this short chapter he meditates on the uses of fantasy, secular and religious:

Then Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing come of it. She told me to pray every day, and whatever I asked for I would get it. But it warn't so. I tried it. Once I got a fish-line, but no hooks. It warn't any good to me without hooks. I tried for the hooks three or four times, but somehow I couldn't make it work.

Of participating in Tom's fantasy life, made of equal parts Don Quixote and Arabian Nights, he says finally:

I got an old tin lamp and an iron ring, and went out in the woods and rubbed and rubbed [...] but it warn't no use, none of the genies come. So then I judged that all that stuff was only just one of Tom Sawyer's lies.

In between, he describes three episodes of going off by himself to think long and hard about the conventions of Christianity and storybooks (there is a whiff of Transendentalism in his persuit), and finds them disappointingly similar. Tom's embroidery had all the marks of a Sunday-school, he decides.

It is worth considering how well this unabashed expression of independent thinking is aided by Huck's informal and earnest grammar. I think fewer readers would feel sympathy with a more polished talker. Before Adventures of Huckleberry Finn appeared, colloquial narration was a hackneyed literary device used in short stories mainly to ridicule the uneducated, usually rural, speakers themselves. That the uneducated narrator in Huck Finn had in fact something profoundly radical to say, and that these words filled an entire novel, was a bomb Twain tossed into in the galleries of refined good taste.

Note too that, among the silly imaginings considered in chapter III, we also glimpse the first of the novel's several real life horrors. A corpse found floating in the river might be pap: this drownded man was just his size, and was ragged, and had uncommon long hair, which was all like pap; but they couldn't make nothing out of the face, because it had been in the water so long it warn't much like a face at all. They said he was floating on his back in the water. Most readers without police experience would likely vomit at the site of such a thing.

In chapter IV we return to the rather more animist world of frontier America, from pap's boot heel hoo-doo warding the devil off his trail, to Jim's consultation of the hairball. This last bit, though apparently silly, does show that the two have already formed some kind of confident bond. Certainly Huck trusts his worries about his father's return with no one else. Jim also manages to come up with a deft bit of foreshadowing : You wants to keep 'way fum de water as much as you kin, en don't run no resk...

Another hint of things to come appears when the Judge asks Huck to explain why he wants to renounce his fortune. Huck instead insists, ". . . don't ask me nothing -- then I won't have to tell no lies."

Last week, Chapter II
Next Sunday, Chapter V & VI

Divide's Guide to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, edited and revised for publication, is now available in a Kindle edition for $3.95 .

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Thought For Food

Top chefs push Obama to improve food policy

A not-bad short piece on the current state of food and farm policy, as seen by those with the most to gain philosophically. This, though, is just dumb:

Phrases like "real food" and "farm-to-table" may sound like elitist jargon tossed around at upscale restaurants. But . . .

No, they sound like phrases for a diet everyone would prefer to have right now, but can't.

Food policy has gotten almost no attention in the transition, and I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. A lot can be done with relatively few administrative strokes, and though there is a huge Big-Agra lobby, it does not spend nearly enough in advertising to have bribed papers and TV networks to be their reflexive allies.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Simple Riffs

There was to the whole day yesterday in Washington a sense of simplicity to the occasion belying its grandeur which, to me anyway, reflects the true nature of the republic.

Sister Franklin gave us a fine rendition of "My Country 'tis of Thee" in her best Sunday hat, the Rev. Dr. Warren went on a little too long, a little too full of himself, the musicians did a beautiful job with a piece composed for the occasion, the judge, who seemed a little distracted, stumbled over his words. A poet read, but the venerable Pastor Lowery closed the service with the deepest poetry of all.

And, tell you what, we might still be the most powerful nation on earth, but our most important national parade resembles any one you might see on the Fourth of July in any town of over 20,000, right down to the fire trucks flashing their lights and silly floats pulled by tractors. (Granted, it was bigger than most, the marching bands were top-notch, and all the politicians had to watch from the sidelines.)

But the greatest aspect of yesterday's proceedings, the truly transformative thing, was that--from the faces surrounding our new president as he spoke, to the vast crowd assembled, to the amiable, goofy parade--the country we live in was reflected at last in Washington, DC.

UPDATE: The good Prairie Weather takes us through what he saw.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Return Address

The president's fine address this morning (CST) was forceful and moving in its appeals to not just a return to an older sense of citizenship but, in its recall of history and its flexible and elegant rhetoric, to an active civic intelligence as well.

To embroider a bit on yesterday's post, let me further observe that when times are good, politics quickly becomes entertainment. The GOP built its successful run on just this notion (recall R. Limbaugh has always called himself an entertainer.) This past election showed that this is not the case anymore, and anyone who thinks it is will lose every political contest they enter.

Stupidity and helplessness, when exhibited among the ruling class, is a political statement too, not far from the realm of entertainment. It mainly says 'we don't need to be that smart to get what we want' which, said the right way, has a deep appeal to the many. It is, after all, the easiest way to live.

But Dumb is Out now too. And politicians who cannot conjure honest reason, appeal to pragmatism, at at least a minimum policy level will not accomplish much, and will likely get sent home.

All of the above holds even more for putative news outlets who regard their main mission as entertaining the stupid. If they want to be in business in two years they better think of something else.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Looking Forward

On this last day of a evil transit, let's look forward a bit. The new guy is entering the White House with historic approval ratings that mirror the disgust shown his predecessor. He is working with healthy majorities in both House and Senate, and has put the finishing touches on a grassroots public interest and lobbying body that promises to redefine national politics. The new guy also has the added advantages of being smart, young, articulate, and handsome, as well as banking the apparent long-term patience of the electorate.

Meanwhile the GOP thinks its economic policies are still valid, that they can mount a principled legislative opposition, that the guy leaving office was unappreciated and misunderstood, that its white, male, southern leadership is in tune with the real America, and (the old-media promise to their hopes) that the new guy is going to screw-up early and often.

They are going to be flayed alive.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Huckleberry Finn, Chapter Two

After the somewhat telescoped events of the first chapter, the novel sets out in a linear fashion from here until its resolution. The action is simple: Huck and Tom Sawyer, in prowling around the Widow's back door awaken the attention of Miss Watson's slave, Jim. He nearly stumbles on where they are hiding outside, but falls asleep on his watch and the boys get away.

Tom goes back to play a prank on the sleeping man by hanging his hat on the tree he is resting against, and then appropriates several candles from the Widow's kitchen, leaving behind a nickel in payment.

The two meet up with several other boys, including Joe Harper and Ben Rogers, and proceed to float a couple miles down the river on a skiff, to a landing near a hidden cave, which they enter and crawl some considerable distance into. There Tom convokes the first meeting of his pirate gang--the very outfit he promised Huck he'd start--outlining its duties and rules. These are both bloodthirsty and comic, showing Tom to be an avid reader of the adventure novels of his day.

The boys finish their playing and Huck gets back to his bedroom a little before dawn.


I want to pay attention here to a little-remarked aspect of Twain's two most famous novels. Namely that Tom Sawyer, the all-American boy of sentimental national mythology, was sketched by his creator as having--besides an abundance of personal charm and bravery--clearly sadistic and manipulative impulses, fed by an over-heated Romantic imagination. In short, exactly the sort of southern lad who'd grow up and fight the Civil War.

Twain tips his hand in Chapter Three of the first book (pg. 23 of the Library of America edition. Online here.)

[Tom] hastened toward the public square of the village, where two "military" companies of boys had met for conflict, according to previous appointment. Tom was General of one of these armies, Joe Harper (a bosom friend) General of the other. These two great commanders did not condescend to fight in person -- that being better suited to the still smaller fry -- but sat together on an eminence and conducted the field operations by orders delivered through aides-de-camp. Tom's army won a great victory, after a long and hard-fought battle. Then the dead were counted, prisoners exchanged, the terms of the next disagreement agreed upon, and the day for the necessary battle appointed; after which the armies fell into line and marched away, and Tom turned homeward alone.

Recall that Tom Sawyer's great popularity came during a middle-class celebration of childhood that was very much in reaction against the stupefying horrors of the War of Rebellion. (I use Ulysses Grant's favored term.) The veterans among Twain's readers would have known exactly what sort of commanding officer he described here, one who did not condescend to fight in person. And the final phrase of the passage lets us know the sort of life he led: Tom turned homeward alone.

While this dark undercurrent to Tom's character was but hinted at in the earlier, far more juvenile fiction, Twain lets it flow in Huckleberry Finn (by no means a children's book), though few care to notice.

I don't think a mature reader, then or now, can consider Tom's proposed prank on Jim without a moral retch: When we was ten foot off Tom whispered to me, and wanted to tie Jim to the tree for fun. He thinks tying a black man to a tree would be . . . fun! (Note here that the novel appeared in the wake of Reconstruction, as lynchings were becoming a frequent southern pastime.) Huck will have no part of it, and thinks of a way to stop him. But I said no; he might wake and make a disturbance, and then they'd find out I warn't in. This is Huck's first rescue of Jim, here cloaked in self-interest.

The casual murders and kidnappings Tom outlines as the obligations of his gang may be taken for comedy and left as such. The resolution with the crying Tommy Barnes is funny. But consider if Twain had finished the scene without it. Tom's violent fantasies might seem a bit stranger. Nevertheless we should ask ourselves what kind of person he is. His sadism will appear in full bloom much later in the story.

Jim is certainly one of the slaves fetched in for prayers in the first chapter. His owner, Miss Watson, has only recently joined the household, therefore so has he. Perhaps this has separated him from his wife and children, if only by a short distance. We learn by inference later in the book that they are owned by someone else.

The tiptoeing in the dark done by all three characters is a genuinely funny scene, if a bit broad. Shakespeare would have recognized the nonsense in an instant, and approved. Some may question the taste of this digression:

Afterwards Jim said the witches bewitched him and put him in a trance, and rode him all over the State, and then set him under the trees again, and hung his hat on a limb to show who done it. And next time Jim told it he said they rode him down to New Orleans; and, after that, every time he told it he spread it more and more, till by and by he said they rode him all over the world, and tired him most to death, [....] Niggers would come miles to hear Jim tell about it, and he was more looked up to than any nigger in that country. Strange niggers would stand with their mouths open and look him all over, same as if he was a wonder. Niggers is always talking about witches in the dark by the kitchen fire; but whenever one was talking and letting on to know all about such things, Jim would happen in and say, "Hm! What you know 'bout witches?". . .

But one finds similar fare among the country folk in Cervantes, an author Twain knew intimately, and the superstition in question is congruent with Huck's own beliefs he mentioned in the previous chapter.

Next Sunday, Chapters III & IV

Divide's Guide to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, edited and revised for publication, is now available in a Kindle edition for $3.95.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

U S Air America

About seven weeks before that squalid little man launched his Iraq Project, the space shuttle Columbia, in hard foreshadowing, unexpectedly busted apart on re-entry. I bring it up now just to draw one of my usual off-the-wall observations, this one regarding the rather happier result of Flight 1549's emergency "landing".

That the stirring tale of a steady captain bringing his imperiled craft back to earth safely, averting certain catastrophe, appears on the eve of another commander taking the controls of another endangered ship veering in catastrophe. . . well, how about that?

I submit that the adulation erupting around good Capt. Sullenberger has as much to do with the overall panic of our national freefall as with his superb piloting skills. And, indeed, if we can take the Columbia disaster as an omen, as I did at the time (I mean, just meditate on the name for crying out loud!), we may also consider the astounding rescue of U S Air flight 1549's passengers as something like a good sign.

I write about this tonight to get ahead of Frank Rich making the same point tomorrow.

UPDATE: Mr. Rich instead contributes a lovely pre-inauguration essay about growing up in segregated Washington, DC.

Even so, H&J is tossed a very tasty bone. Describing his southern-school curriculum, Rich observes: In my history class, the Civil War was downsized to a passing speed bump. In English, we read “Tom Sawyer,” not “Huckleberry Finn.”

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wave Hello

Last June I had this to say regarding the psychological character of our next prez:

Judging by what I saw of his address last night in St. Paul, Obama is still very much interested in presenting his remarkable victory as a collective one, that he is merely the visible edge of a wave. Lately I've been occupied thinking about his upbringing in Hawaii, a place I have never been, and how it formed his ideas of what is natural and possible.

When I made this, admittedly trippy, observation to the good Al Giordano in conversation last November, he good-naturedly put me down by remarking on how notoriously stupid surfers are.

Well, maybe so. But I can't help thinking that a wave-rider is exactly what's needed now by our storm-tossed republic.

I have been pretty mum here lately because, mainly, I get tired of repeating myself regarding the death of the GOP and the overall collapse of the old orders of media and finance. Lately I've noticed that it's only just beginning to dawn on such players that they have no futures to speak of. If my comprehension of events runs mainly six months to a year ahead of most everyone else's I can tell you that, come summer, people will begin picking up wreckage just for something to do.

In the meantime I'm focusing on Huck Finn and a couple causes I think are worthwhile. I've already mentioned sustainable agriculture. I also think a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a great idea.

How about you?

Copyright Infringement Theater Presents. . .

A rare music video

Sunday, January 11, 2009

YOU don't know about me. . .

without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly.

And so begins this great, perhaps the great, American novel. YOU don't know about me, the speaker without a name steps out from anonymity to be heard, to address you directly. This is MY story. Maybe you read that book by Mark Twain, he says, (a pseudonym there-a man behind a mask) and he told a few lies, but don't worry about him.

That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, and, as we shall see, his tale is a monument to lies and falsehood, private and amusing, public and appalling. In fact, the only person in sight our narrator does not lie to, ever, is YOU, the reader.

Following the adventures related in the earlier book, he is for his time and place wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice. He explains his domestic situation: homeless and nearly orphaned, he has been adopted by the widow Douglas to be raised to be a respectable member of the community. He chafes at the restrictions, down to the clothes he is made to wear, and runs off to sleep, happy and content, in a barrel outdoors.

His friend, the aforementioned Sawyer, presumably sent by the widow, talks him into returning to his new home.

But more than his living arrangement, we are given to understand how he lives. He is observant, hard to fool, and kind. The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it.

He is also very bright, pestering the widow when something finally seizes his interest: After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat to find out all about him;

What is so interesting about Moses and the Bulrushes? That a baby was cast onto a great river, of course, on a kind of raft, and floated away to find his destiny. He wants to know all about that, that is really interesting. How'd he do that??

but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn't care no more about him, because I don't take no stock in dead people.

And here we have the first of Twain's rude shocks, from out of nowhere, a slap at the Bible. Amusing even now, it probably still outrages a few living fundamentalists. In 1885 it was a cheerful assault on the foundation of society itself. The book was banned that year by the Concord, Mass. library, the first of many such honors.

The boy is sensitive to hypocrisy. He wants to smoke, his protector says he can't. Here she was a-bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see, yet finding a power of fault with me for doing a thing that had some good in it. And she took snuff, too; of course that was all right, because she done it herself.

I'm still not sure what that last comment means, perhaps that the righteous see no need to remedy themselves.

Finally he mentions his name, as he is being scolded. The widow's sister, Miss Watson, has moved in and tries to home school him.

"Don't put your feet up there, Huckleberry;" and "Don't scrunch up like that, Huckleberry -- set up straight;" and pretty soon she would say, "Don't gap and stretch like that, Huckleberry -- why don't you try to behave?"

The subject of religion returns, now as coercive social agent. He's having none of it, though.

Then she told me all about the bad place, and I said I wished I was there. She got mad then, but I didn't mean no harm. All I wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was a change, I warn't particular. She said it was wicked to say what I said; said she wouldn't say it for the whole world; she was going to live so as to go to the good place. Well, I couldn't see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn't try for it.

The easy availability of Hell is a theme we will find deepened much later in the narrative.

Oh, and speaking of Hell:

By and by they fetched the niggers in and had prayers, and then everybody was off to bed.

A casual observation, a daily event, a nasty word. Twain here shows us, in a stroke, the hateful yoke of southern religion. Round up the slaves for a few prayers then send them to quarters, another day the Lord has made is over. Sometimes Huck says the most when he says the least.

The balance of the chapter is made up of a true cosmology, one of the brooding night. Our first glimpse of the natural world through Huck's eyes is as a vale of loneliness and superstition. The stars were shining, and the leaves rustled in the woods ever so mournful; and I heard an owl, away off, who-whooing about somebody that was dead, and a whippowill and a dog crying about somebody that was going to die; and the wind was trying to whisper something to me, and I couldn't make out what it was [...]

In a stroke of bad luck, he accidently kills a spider. He is petrified because of it as the clock tolls the witching hour. He hears a cat outside, and it turns into Tom Sawyer; a diabolical figure, I submit, in Twain's estimation, though I am not aware of any supporting scholarship on this point. I shall return to it before we are done.

Last week, an introduction.
Next Sunday, Chapter II

Divide's Guide to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, edited and revised for publication, is now available in a Kindle edition for $3.95

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Mark This

Last summer I tried explaining Mark Twain's 19th century renown to a younger reader. Imagine a combination of David Sedaris and Hunter Thompson, I said, a California journalist with a reputation for wild friends and substance abuse whose books were dependable bestsellers, and sold-out lecture tours usually left audiences weak from laughing.

I'm pleased to say she got it.

In the decades after his death, Sam Clemens-whom I shall refer to from here on as Mark Twain-was memorialized as America's Beloved Humorist, which was easy to do because he was. But he wrote to a very wide audience, from school children to the most hardened of newspaper men, and with a very sly humor which deepened according to the sophistication and alertness of his readers.

Sometimes it takes several readings, and a leavening of years, to get his jokes, or rather realize that he expects you to see that something he presents as amusing is much funnier on a rather more hidden level, or sometimes really isn't all that funny at all. Conversely, his deepest humor can also run through the most morbid of observations.

Twain was our first, and therefore our most, transgressive writer. His close friend and most perceptive contemporary critic, William Dean Howells, recognized early on the rage which animated his pages (rage we also find in Thompson and, I submit, Sedaris's work.) Twain was the first writer in America to make fun of the pious, mock the aim and content of the Bible, celebrate lying as an essential national trait, and ridicule nearly every popular literary convention held dear, to nearly universal acclaim. He despised hypocrisy most of all, and came to recognize it everywhere he looked.

His most transgressive book, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, was written at the height of his powers, in three stages, over the course of seven years. And while we may be certain that his intentions for the book shifted over time, his animating rage only smoothed in the process into something dangerous and fine, an electric line which only shocks when exposed, but then to deadly effect.

My aim going forward is for us to run our hands over his work, feeling for the current. Huck is a rude and appalling book, full of difficulties which have pissed-off readers since its publication in 1885. Since then it has been regularly banned while never going out of print. We should understand from the start that Twain was a storyteller, not a novelist. The book's design is its language-which proclaims equal parts ignorance and sincerity-the likes of which had never appeared between covers before. Its characters, a good many of whom are violent and conniving, is its action. Its setting is the degraded frontier outposts built on a ruined Eden, the outlines of which are mainly visible only to its narrator. That individual is neither boy nor man, a young outcast mainly despised and feared by the only society he knows, who befriends and aids the only person in that society with less status than himself, and in so doing becomes a criminal.

Twain's genius, which was really a gift, was for observation. He paid close attention to life and presented his observations, daring his readers to pay attention too. His famous posted warning on the flyleaf of Huckleberry Finn reads:

PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.


This is my property, I think Twain is saying here. As one critic has pointed out, this does not mean that the book lacks motive, moral or plot, only that people shouldn't bother looking for them. I will add that shootings, banishment and prosecutions hover constantly over the book so as to be lode stars for everything that happens in it. It seems to me that the author is telling us in so many words not to worry about what the novel means, that if we pay attention it will be pretty damn clear.

Next Sunday: Chapter 1.

Divide's Guide to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, edited and revised for publication, is now available in a Kindle edition for $3.95