Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Huck in Gold

[posted by Callimachus]

I got a mail offer today for "an exquisite leather-bound collector edition of Huckleberry Finn, accented with pure 22kt gold ...." Inside, the copy uses terms like "exclusive" and "lustrous."

I like a good, well-made book as well as the next collector; book-as-object. I even own a few. It's not the way we make books nowadays, but it's an appropriate treatment for, say, novels by Choderlos de Laclos or Sir Walter Scott.

Could there possibly be a less appropriate book for such a treatment? I can almost hear Clemens' snort of derision through his cigar smoke. Huck himself looks uncomfortable in there, trapped in a cage of leather and gilding like the civilized clothes and shoes the Widow made him wear: "I couldn't do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up."

It looks less like a book you'd read than something the duke and the dauphin would carry with them down the river to swindle a pack of Arkansas rednecks by telling them it held the secrets of immortality and eternal happiness or something. Which is perhaps not too far from the case.

The original cover.

"Huck Finn" has been banned from some school libraries for its liberal use of the "N-word," without regard for the context and overall message of the book. It's a good thing the would-be censors never saw this.