Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Finn (copy)

It has been said there are no true original stories. Each story is built on a previously written story. For example, a story we are all familiar with in Genesis, Noah’s Ark, is found in the Hebrew Torah, the Islamic Quran, and the Epic of Gilgamesh. Various versions of the classic may be found in children’s picture books and in Sunday school lessons, too.

Other literature of late expands on classics with a variety of success. Two come to mind: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is based on the Biblical story of Dinah, and Wicked by Gregory Maguire is based on The Wizard of Oz.

New on library shelves and bookstore displays, Finn by Jon Clinch is based on Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Main character, known only as Finn throughout the book, isn’t Huck but rather his father. A mean, nasty bigot of a man who only cares for his son when money enters the picture, somehow makes for a sympathetic character.

Despicable characters tend to be plot drivers, but audience losers. An author takes a chance when he creates a main character so hateful. Why? Most readers want to empathize or step into the personality instead of wish them dead. Finn is lustful towards black woman, abusive to children, and slightly insane. Not really a person one would like to meet in the real world or read about.

Yet, author Clinch works in our sympathy for the alcoholic. In the first chapter, three young boys steal fish from Finn’s trout line. Finn, in search of drink, stumbles upon them mid-crime. Two of the boys bail, but one is left trying to remove a hook from his palm. The unfortunate takes a backhand from Finn, which knocks him out and the hook free. Then our antihero is seen tenderly removing the fish from the boat’s hull.

The book opens with an excerpt from Huckleberry Finn. Jim and Huck, while on the run, enter a cabin containing the body of a murdered man; who happens to be Huck’s father. The seedy room is strewn with “greasy cards,” “old whiskey bottles,” and “a couple of masks made out of black cloth.” The plaster walls shown “the ignorantest kind of words and pictures, made with charcoal.”

This scene sets the stage, from murderous start to vindicated end. Finn, although evolving from Huckleberry Finn, stands alone as an original.


Sam said...

I was fascinated by Finn gruesome though it is and I think that the author did a remarkable job in fleshing out Pap's character...horrible a man as he was, he seemed real to me.

The book is certainly not for everyone, but for those with a strong stomach and who want a rawer version of Huck's world, it's a must-read, I think.

maggie moran said...

Hi Sam,

I think my sypathy towards Finn stems from his drinking; although, I gave a totally mis-marked example. I was running near deadline and that was the only short episode I could relate. One could argue he wasn't so much as being kind to the fish, but rather coddling his profits.

Real men and women aren't totally bad or good, and I'm glad his little good peeked through on occasion. And, when it comes to family members, we have to take the bad with the good! ;P

maggie moran said...

Oops! *sympathy*

Isabel said...

Was the writing style similar to Twain's?

maggie moran said...

You know, WW100, I found him to be less coloqual than Twain, and a lot more graphic/violent.

Sam, how do you feel about it?

Sam said...

I agree, Maggie. I found his style to be easier to read than Twain's, and it was definitely more violent. I don't think that Twain could have possibly gotten away with providing the violent details that the new book provides. Mark Twain could only hint at the violence and to show its aftermath; Jon Clinch, on the other hand, was able to describe in detail what was happening. It makes for a different version of Huck's world but I'm not sure really if it was a more "realistic" version of those days or just a more spectacularly violent version.

maggie moran said...

I'm not so sure about degrees of violence through history, Sam. I've read Lynchings and Redemption recently and have a feeling most violence in history is white-washed just like Finn's upstairs room. ;)

maggie moran said...

Oh, that I mean to say, violence in the real world in the previous comment.

I totally agree with the written violence becoming an acceptable devise in books of late.

Anonymous said...

Huck Finn was one of my favorite all time books. I still love it, I wander if I have the stomach for this one?

maggie moran said...

You might find you love it for very different reasons, if you read it. It's totally different (violent/adult situations) and I'm not so sure I would recommnend it to teens, Deana.

Jill said...

Hi, Maggie: This is Jill from the Summer Reading Chalenge. I like your blog! I wish I had found it sooner because I would have liked to participate in the Southern Writer Challenge. Maybe next time?

I read Finn several weeks ago, and I still think about this novel. If you're interested, here's a link to my review on LiveJournal.

Catch ya later! =) Jill