Hank Jordan's Blog
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The Book Was Better

December 26th, 2010 by Hank

I just finished reading the book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. It was written more than a hundred years ago, but somehow, along the way I missed reading it.

It was delightful. I think it was and possibly still is required reading in college literary courses. It deserves its place as a classic.

The story was fascinating, the characters were believable, the tales, the many colorful sub-plots and the suspense in the action were superb. Mark Twain’s descriptions of the environment along the Mississippi River are more than just interesting, they are a pleasure to read. I think everyone should read the book. It’s available free on the Internet. Just visit guttenberg.org.

Then, tonight on TV I watched the 1939 movie, starring Mickey Rooney as a youngster. I am positive that Mark Twain is still turning over in his grave since the movie was made. Although Rooney and the other actors did a good job of depicting the characters, the movie had little if any resemblance to the actual story in the book. It had none of the truly interesting material. The main part of the story was left out (Finn and Tom Sawyer re-uniting and Tom planning an absurd scheme to free the slave Jim, although he knew Jim had alread been set free by his former owner). Twain’s unique descriptive phrases were absent, and the subtle dialogues were non-existent. It just wasn’t the same mental experience.

Twain used dialects and anachronisms of his day throughout the book. Some narrow-minded academic leaders have banned the book because it uses the term niggars throughout the story. You know what? Everyone, including the slaves themselves and, and the freed slaves called them niggars in those days. It was not a derogatory term, it was simply what all the people called the negroes at the time the book was written.

Mark Twain recognized the reality of slavery being wrong, and anyone reading the book realizes this very quickly within the book. The entire story revolves around a slave wrongly accused of a crime and many people, including Huck Finn, helping him to become free.

The antics of four people in the story are what keeps you the reader fascinated — Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and the two con men The King and The Duke.

As a pragmatic author, I am not offended by the Hollywood touch, but I bemoan the fact that so many millions of people have been duped into believing that what they saw on the screen was what Mark Twain wrote.

Years ago I rented a spare office in my advertising agency to a successful Hollywood writer of the time. His name was Richard DeRoy. He was handed the job of writing a series of screen plays of the bestseller book Peyton Place. I asked Richard what he thought of the book in general, and he replied he had never read the book and did not intend to read it. He only asked the names of the main characters. He invented everything in the TV scripts. The TV series was successful, but the stories and episodes bore no resemblance whatsoever to the book. That’s Hollywood!

Posted in Fiction Books & Writing

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