The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Unabridged Classics in Audio)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Unabridged Classics in Audio) - Mark Twain It is with great satisfaction that I finally get to put a "read" tick next to this volume. I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as a teenager and liked it very much, but despite several attempts, I could never get much more than a third of the way through Huck Finn. I was enjoying the book each time (Huck's Pap always scared me out of my wits), but I couldn't seem to get much past Huck's escape from the cabin. After a while, I finally worked out why -- I have trouble reading books in heavy vernacular, as it slows my reading pace down to a level that annoys me. Nevertheless it bothered me that I had not read such a classic of American literature. The recent controversy over the expurgated version revived my interest in reading the book. After so many failed attempts, I wasn't hopeful about finishing it, but on the other hand I felt was not justified in having an opinion in the controversy without being familiar with the text. In my dithering, I kept putting it off. When I started listening to audiobooks in late weeks and began browsing offerings, there were several versions of Huck Finn just waiting to be auditioned -- a perfect solution to my vernacular-phobia. I liked William Dufris's voice best out of the samples and so he won. The story was definitely worth the wait and the struggle. Huck is a delightful character and a wonderfully unreliable narrator. Watching his opinions shift in the course of the book, watching him struggle against everything that he was always taught was right, but which we know to be so horrible wrong, Twain forces us to wonder ourselves what things was now take for granted as "right". I loved that Twain was equally skilled with both satire and pathos. I was laughing like crazy over the schemes over the "Duke" and the "Dauphin" and yet I was brought nearly to tears by Jim's regret over beating his child. There's a light touch to much of the writing, which in the hands of a less skilled author might keep the characters at a distance from the reader, but Twain keeps Huck so present in the story that we can feel the sun beating down, feel each ripple in the current as the raft sails down the Mississippi, feel Huck's panic when he and Jim are separated in the fog. It's not for nothing that many call Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the Great American Novel. And my opinion in the controversy? Quoted in the linked article, the publisher of the expurgated version emphasizes that they are not trying to render Twain's writing colourblind (a horrible word that negates the experiences of people of colour), but rather give those who are sensitive to racial slurs a way to visit this classic without having to subject themselves to 219 instances of it. (I admit, there was a little inward wince every time I heard it in this audiobook). I say NewSouth Books is doing no more other publishers do when they print modern versions Sleeping Beauty (ie: with the rape removed): offering a version of a classic story that fits the changed mores of modern world so that as few readers as possible are lost. Older versions of the fairy tale are still accessible to those who want to trace our morality back and breath a sigh over how far we've come. Twain's original will still be there for the same purpose and the new version might gain him some fans that would otherwise give this great novel a miss.