LAUGH ABOUT A BLACK KID

MSNBC, leaning forward like Hitler’s Army in World War II, got its chuckles.

Mitt Romney is the grandfather of a black child. The New York Citiers on MSNBC are laughing about it and making loads of politically incorrect comments about this adoption.

Fortunately, the Romney family can protect the child from these vile, scornful, hateful remarks and give the child love, hope and security.

But MSNBC: Other than ridding itself of everyone on this show or news program – producers, hosts, guests – and never showing their mugs on TV again as well as shutting them out forever, the host of every MSNBC show/program/news hour and every NBC newsperson should apologize publicly to the Romney family and to the American people.  

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DEATH IN THE FAMILY

I should say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year before I note that this is the time of year we notice there aren’t as many people in the family, or young people in the family are suddenly sending cards.

I’ve never been good at expressing condolences to a spouse or to a family member, yet I this year two relatives – fathers with wives, children and grandchildren, good providers looking after their own family but not looking after their own health, in their early seventies. They are gone. I’ve known each man almost my entire life. I’ve seen each infrequently. I feel close to each family, each unrelated to the other and neither is aware of the loss of the other.

The first man was a second cousin whom I saw when young at family gatherings. I was at his marriage. He moved away; he was an excellent businessman. I was ten years young than he; his kids were 10-15 years younger than I. There were family stories which we rumbled about or clipped through, depending upon the time we had to talk. As a teenager I attended his brother’s wedding, and the men in the bridal party wanted me to drink beer with them. Instead of being “corrupted” by them, I mistakingly said, “You’re trying to corrode me.” I was known thereafter by that part of the family as “Old Corroded.” The last time I saw this cousin I told him “corrode” not “corrupt” was the right verb. “How do you know?” “My liver told me.”

The other man lived farther away; I saw him less. He was married to a warm, wonderful first cousin. He was a man of definite opinions and strong feelings. I did not agree with him, but I always listened. One must listen to people who disagree with you, to test yourself, to know about other people in society, and to be able to learn not only for the limited confines of the human intellect and sentiments, but also to be a better person: Learn, listen, courtesy and politeness. See the world through the eyes of another [we may not always like the view]. And if necessary fall back to toleration: I have opinions and know better, but I tolerate you. I did not see this man enough to have that full engagement and experience.

I wrote the families rather than called. I don’t have all the words in me. How many ways can anyone say “a good man,” and not sound facetious? Equally so: “A sad loss.” “Everyone will miss him.” Those would be egotistical and presumptuous of me. I can imagine the thinking of the wives while listening: Hell, you hadn’t see him for 20 years! Do you believe anything you’re saying is true? He was in a lot of pain; that is gone! What makes you think I want to revisit any of this? 

The letters imparted my sentiments and let the families mix their impressions and mine.

LARRY

“The logic of Michelangelo’s David, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Einstein’s Physics [has] been replaced but that of the Stock Exchange Year Book and Hitler’s Mein Kampf.” Eric Ambler, A Coffin for Dimitros

The naked guy was a student who used to walk onto the Berkeley campus wearing only shoes and a day pack. He went to class. I saw him once or twice. He wasn’t bothering anyone, but he eventually was disciplined and left the campus.

Thereafter, the University of California at Berkeley had nothing cultural or artistic to offer the world. Nothing was engagingly odd, alluring entertaining or unique. The campus needed something to contribute to American culture. One day in the mid-1990s a black guy named Larry showed up with his drums and a stool. Larry sat in the middle of Sproul Plaza from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and pounded his drums. Some passer-bus claimed that Larry varied his beats and rhythms, but most knew Larry had one routine and it was very annoying and loud. University employees in the west facing offices of Sproul Hall, in the Student Union and in the nearby cafeteria were crushed: Pounding every academic day of the semester, day after day, hour after hour, second after second.

Larry would talk to people and acknowledge others as the parade went by. He claimed to be a drum teacher and was in Sproul Plaza drumming up business. The pun was intended. From the campus police station in the basement of Sproul Hall came authority, after about a year. An arrangement was reached. Larry would move 150 feet sound to the intersection of Bancroft and Telegraph. He could pound his drums all he wanted on City of Berkeley property.

If the University of California had known and correctly realized where City of Berkeley property started in 1964, there would have been no Free Speech Movement.

Larry moved south and changed his hours, 11:30 a.m. into the evening. Same drumming, same parade and a different audience hearing the pounding, heart rendering thunder now across the street from second story apartments. Larry could be heard two blocks away, over traffic, voices and the business of the city. 

Larry was there a long time, a new students wondered why the noisemaker was tolerated and allowed to disrupt the peace near the campus. There were complaints, but the University cops laughed, and the City police had more important matters than objectionable art to fuzz.

I had my car near the University a few years later. I was driving a friend from Boalt on the east side of campus to BART near the west side of campus. It was a warm and pleasant fall evening as we drove west on Bancroft Avenue. As usual I had to stop at the traffic light at Telegraph.

To our right about 30 yards ahead on the sidewalk was Larry pounding his drums. My friend has a voice that can carry a quarter mile. I said, “Tell Larry he sucks.” Down came with window.

As I peeled out, my friend boomed, “LARRY, YOU SUCK!” 

We had driven a half block when we heard the drumming stop.

Shortly thereafter Larry stopped drumming at Telegraph and Bancroft, period. It was the end of any contribution from the University of California at Berkeley to American culture. Imagine an artist stopping all effort because a complete stranger yells, “YOU SUCK! It happened, and that is the only possible result when the artistic effort and cultural contribution is ephemeral, for the moment, temporary and offensive. It’s foundation was based on public indifference backed by the worst of all human attitudes: Let him do his thing.

Americans are unwilling to draw distinctions; they don’t want to be judgmental. But all art and surviving culture is judgmental; What exists and survives is excellence, not something that people have ignored it. Yet Americans usually will pay to witness mediocrity. The choreography by cheerleading squads at most high school football games exceeds that of dancing by song-singing rock stars. Yet people pay big bucks to see the two-stepping lip-syncing robots on stage. There is one feature not available from the high school units. If the dancing and songs are not catchy in music performance, perhaps removing clothes, using drugs or being arrested for beating up someone will attract fans..

And what of the great talent from the music world. Some of it isn’t much better than Larry’s drumming. In a writing by a blogger this month, he wrote that classic music should just die. He correctly pointed out that concert halls were expensive and musicians were always asking for money. He omitted a egregious, parallel comparison: The money spent to build stadiums for professional athletics to benefit owners and athletes. The money spent there dwarfs the money spent on concert halls and symphony orchestras, and no one, if ever, tears down or stop using a music hall. Whether professional athletics is a worthwhile cultural activity is an issue I will not deal with here.

But to the doubting blogger, does he know how long it takes today’s musicians to put together an album of 75-90 minutes? It took George Frederick Handel 25 days to compose Messiah, including the orchestration, about 150 minutes of the arguably best choral music ever composed. Or try being blind and old and compose arguably the best choral music ever composed: Bach did it in the B Minor Mass. Or be DEAF for eight years and compose music that became the best symphony, and perhaps the best music ever conceived and composed: Beethoven did that in the Ninth Symphony. PLUS Beethoven may have been unhappy with the fourth movement of that symphony and considered writing a movement without a chorus. Listen to the whole symphony and wonder why Beethoven may have been unhappy.

In the field of human achievement Messiah, the B Minor Mass and the Ninth Symphony surpass artist achievements in most media. Americans could learn and appreciate much if they knew these works – if Americans replaced and oriented themselves to them rather than let themselves languish and linger, YOU SUCK in the bogs of professional sports and their rock concert fore-times, half-times and after-times.

I would rather spend money on fitful classical musicians than waste money on fitless professional athletes. 

SILLY CULTURE

“The logic of Michelangelo’s David, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Einstein’s Physics [has] been replaced by that of the Stock Exchange Year Book and Hitler’s Mein Kampf.” I like this sentence from Eric Ambler’s A Coffin for Dimitros. 

What does it mean? It can be stated as a sinking bottom line i.e. when there is no foundation there is no building and no edifice. The meaning can be found in other ways. I must paraphrase H.L. Mencken: No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. A third way of saying the sentence comes from Georges Clemenceau covering the American Civil War for French newspapers and in World War One French Prime Minister: (paraphrased) America went from barbarism to decadence without the usual intervening period of civilization.

A question always arises is the relative importance of culture and its excellence to society, the economy and to a nation’s well being. Until 1870 France was becoming a stilted, static place. After a crushing military defeat in 1870 and a harsh peace of 1871 France transformed itself initially by culture. In the fine arts French painting, music and sculpture excelled and pushed the envelope in those media. France became the place to write, paint, sculpt and compose, a reputation it maintains. France is the most obvious example telling the importance of excellent culture and artistic output and those significant influences they have on the people of the country. In short excellent culture allowed France to rebound quickly and strive ahead.

When culture and art become idleness, slight entertainments, annoying diversions or amusing ephemera, it represents nothing more important than something produced on an assembly line – pieces of throw away stuff. How often do Americans hear about a one-time “priceless” work of modern sculpture sold for its scrap-metal value, like a Pentagon weapon system gone bad or an awry government computer program? Art is supposed to entire forever, not be dismissed because it has served its purpose: The artist [creator, originator or mechanic] has been paid and has garnered more commissions off the recognition of the sale. Yet Americans continue to treat music, painting, writing as something thrown against a wall, and if it sticks it will be there offending until it the environment forces it to fall off.

Culture allows a people to backstop problems, issues, events and potential solutions. It lets people retreat to what is good about the society, perhaps live a fantasy or a dream, while the pile emits its bad or good seeps from it. What has a solid footing and does not seem obviously derivative, inordinately temporary, brazenly artificial may survive, be accepted and become part of the lives of the people. But that seldom happens. Today what remains of art produced 10 years ago? About artists I know of, musicians, which pieces of music introduced in 2004 are played today other than franchise themes? Music to TV shows, ads, ditties on computers. The best anyone can say about America is that it is in a rut; it is at sea without an anchor. The backstop supposedly holding American culture is actually a canyon into which we empty more and more stuff. 

Alarmingly, Americans seek solice not in the excellence of human activity and production, but in religion, faith or secularized philosophy. No one can disagree with those individual choices, but they provide and afford few, if any, comprehensive solutions. Religion, faith and philosophy are terrific means to provide comfort to individual means and to guide individuals, but extending those belief systems are not conducive to acceptance or they are offensive to persons with contrary religions, faiths and philosophies. Imposing laws are to force compliance is coercive and debilitating. It results in less respect for law. Because law seems not to work, Americans attempt to rectify imperfections by voting solely for representatives who believe in their religion, faith or philosophical systems.

The so-called Right has justly been accused of voting this way. The so-called Left also votes this way. The commonality of Left and Right is the means of obtaining money and power, but no community remains – Right or Left. And there is no culture except a buzz, a ring, static, a din. And Americans are left to accept the meager entertainments coming to them cheaply and engaging them momentarily. None of it feeds the spirit, the enlightens the soul and fills the essence. None of it braces an individual for the uncertainly of tomorrow.

 

A COFFIN FOR DIMITROS – Eric Ambler

“The logic of Michelangelo’s David, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Einstein’s Physics [has] been replaced by that of the Stock Exchange Year Book and Hitler’s Mein Kampf.” The author sets out a story – the “special conditions which exist” – to develop this theme. As I view the world, Ambler may as well be writing about the Clinton, Bush and Obama years in the United States of America.

Protagonist, Latimer, is a writer of detective stories. In Istanbul he meets a Colonel of Turkish intelligence who has outlined a detective story but can’t write it. He gives it to Latimer to write. He also offers to show Latimer the body of an international criminal, Dimitros. Latimer sees the man and learns what the Turks know of his activities – spotty before 1924 and a blank after 1924. Latimer decides to learn about Dimitros’ political, criminal and financial activities in those missing 14 years. 

For 100 pages the story is an obligation to read. It could be improved by Ambler telling of Latimer’s curiosity to investigate as a writer. Otherwise, Latimer seems flat and a gadfly. Also when faced with dead time in a story, an author can improve the tale in one of two ways: Tell a better story, OR improve the language used in the telling of the story. Ambler finally ponies up with the second method:

       1. Who is the mastermind becomes “who paid for the bullet?”

       2. Darkness of human existence became “baroque of human affairs.”

       3. “wrinkled flesh” is “raddled flesh”

       4. A sentence “People were dying faster than if you had machine-gunned them.”

       5. An adversary learns that Latimer’s passport says he is a writer, and he says, “…writer is a very elastic term.”

If some of these phrases and sentence offend, the time of this novel is Europe between the Wars. There is a chapter on white slavery and drug dealing in Paris, circa 1930. Many of the victimized prostitutes were from Eastern Europe. I thought this novel was a prequel to the movie, “Taken.”

Tomorrow I shall blog more about the gross statement of the theme of A Coffin, but this book demonstrates with little effort and few additions to the text that something of substance can be included in a tale of international crime. Ambler makes his book a statement of his times, a mirror of society. 

What does the first sentence of this post have to do with crime and A Coffin? When one person or hundred of persons are allowed to shirk the law, step over its lines repeatedly, make fortunes, become prominent and be protected, that makes for a very different society than the one popular in political mythology: Everyone plays by the same rules, has the same opportunities, can pursue happiness, can contribute to the general weal and gain the esteem due a member of society. In the first described society, select people abuse and take advantage and rob. Under the political myth, it is assumed there is organic growth to the betterment of everyone.

Most Americans prefer the political myth, but they don’t always know how to achieve it. They neglect standards, criteria and values. One area where Americans have abandoned all caution: Countless American entertainers and artists, purporting to be part of the community, are abusing the system: They don’t entertain; they aren’t artistic. But why denounce easy targets in the United States?

Look overseas to Russia and the band Pussy Riot. In a church that band decided to perform a desecrating concert and publicize it. The performance was devoid of art and was bad entertainment. If Pussy Riot does not shock with the band’s name, it shouldn’t perform in a church for “more shock value.”

They were prosecuted and imprisoned, which only enhanced their name in the West. Pussy Riot became a cause celebre. Rock and roll musicians asked they be released. I do know if Pussy Riot committed the crimes like trespass or malicious mischief, but years in prison seem long. Although devoid of art and being poor entertainment, the West is ready to bestow awards, riches, fame and adulation on Pussy Riot. That is a mistake. There are no standards, no values, no excellence, just publicity. The West, especially America, cannot give Pussy Riot a big- welcome, you’ve-held-up-our-values, you’re-important-to-human-existence. The West, America and the remainder of the World have done that justly and recently. Who out there has the gall to compare the comparative worth of Pussy Riot to Nelson Mandela?

What does Eric Ambler say? If society does not abide by its heroes like Nelson Mandela and conduct, respect and uphold supporting values and standards, society will end with the standards, values and excellence of Pussy Riot, “the Stock Exchange Year Book and Hitler’s Mein Kampf.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bitch. – Third Edition

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The purpose of my novel, Bitch., a period not a dot, a verb not a noun, puts the reader on the ground as a student at the University of California at Berkeley in September 1968 and carries through June 1973. It is 200,000 words.

There are loads of details – historical, fictional, contrived. First Edition, First printing was in 2000 – footnotes, bibliography, index and lexicon (words of the Sixties plus sources) e.g. “bummers” came from neither the Hells Angels nor the hippies. In 1864 the scavengers of Sherman’s Army on the March to the Sea through Georgia were known as bummers.

First Edtion, Second Printing is a reediting of the First Printing. Corrected are typos, less “majestically lawless.” In the First Printing one page has one word on it. The Second Printing has fewer obstacles to get to the purpose of the novel than the First Printing.

Before writing and during writing I did extensive research. I was dismayed when bookstores around the University closed in Berkeley: Seven in ten years. Some libraries closed and deprived me of sources. The Undergraduate Library was remodeled and its collection was reduced at least 50 percent. When I arrived to write, the campus had not changed much. I was able to write from memory, research and setting as they had been for decades.

The primary change between the First Printing and the Second was to the name of a character. I was using a pseudonym, Karl Rauh. In German “rauh” means abrupt, rude, sharp, and there was nothing about my writing that was polite, gentle or soft. Bitch. retains the edge of the attack. But I had named a character in the story, Karl Rauh, and a reader who believed she knew characters in the book, observed there was a problem with voices: author/character. I considered that point and took the quickest remedy: I changed the character’s name.

After the Second Printing was published, I was in the City of Berkeley Library Book Store. Someone had brought in loads of boxes filled with Sociology from the Sixties and Seventies. I realized I had a large source of books I had not seen. I bought and began reading, and more out of bookstores and from libraries, perhaps 1000 books. I had 50-100 pages of notes and additions to the text of Bitch.. For instance a little item: I met a woman who would only date on a Dutch treat basis. In a source I found a teenage girl who would only go Dutch treat because she didn’t like the feeling of being “rented” for the evening. That source is end-noted in the Third Edition.

Unprompted by me in 2009 the publisher of the Second Printing relinquished all rights to Bitch.. I was unhappy with the Second Printing because of the errors and its incomplete research and the many references I had overlooked and now made. Scanning the book into word processing would be a complete disservice to me as a writer and to the text which wasn’t perfect. The idea of retyping a manuscript of that length raises NOT the question, Do I want to read this again? Instead, the question becomes, Do I want to type this again? There were words, sentences and paragraphs to insert or move someplace else. Text to add and stuff to delete, and it was all possible because I read the text at 15-20 words a minute, my typing speed. Along the way I was able to reenter the book into my memory, and was able to play with it. I rounded out characters; I made paragraphs complete thoughts; I made the story full, inserting another 10-15,000 words. I added to endnote texts, and I added 90 note references.

[When one is writing about the Sixties and early Seventies, it is good to get facts, thoughts and impressions correct. Many memoirs and recountings are so highly edited to make the representations of those texts farcical and those texts wholly dishonest. Inserting the notes to sources and newspapers of those times at least tell the facts as they occurred. It is difficult for a once famous “personage” of those times to support his fantasies as he likes to remember them today and not as they happened. Many of those people like to write about their feelings. Hence the endnotes and the bibliography in Bitch..]

Under my name, michael ulin edwards, [I jettisoned the pseudonym],I received a copyright for the Third Edition of Bitch., iBookstore. It is the ghost edition. There are no graphics. There is an improved lexicon and bibliography but no index. Epublishing would not support the index. Unfortunately, there is no search function in Epublishing.

Editing a manuscript I believed once perfect was daunting and annoying, and in the end I was grateful. The text needed a sever reading. I learned how to do that. It is a much different mindset than writing, and different from proofreading. When a writer proofs, he accepts the text and makes small changes. But reediting – sentences, phrases, clauses, paragraphs – does not accept the text as it is. The mindset is to deconstruct. Reediting reinvents the text so words do their best work.

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Just a note about writing Bitch.. The more words the more complicated the writing, the organization and the interactions and interface of stories, characters and settings. Before writing I determined there would be five major characters, the names are capitalized in each circle. One subsidiary character, “Ellen,” is mentioned. Not all the characters would have the same experiences, but like many young people during the Sixties and early Seventies, they had shared experiences. Those experiences were by direct participation or vicarious knowledge, because many occurrences during those years had a lot of fallout [unlike today where experiences tend to shut and tie-off]. Once I accepted this organization, the only diagram (“outline”) I made, the text was a matter of writing the stories of each character and how they mixed.

Always paramount was a driving theme found in Lee’s circle: Characters were looking for love in a loveless society.

EXPERIMENTS OVERSEAS

AMERICANS should be careful when spending money and men overseas, especially actively engaging in the Twentieth Century malarkey carried into this millennium. 

There are books – because that is why books are written, to inform and influence – every policy maker and every American should read to access and evaluate plans and policies, and influence action.

In Face of Empire, Frank Golay, tells about the American take over, missteps, gross missteps and high wire acts during its “colonial” relationship with the Philippines (1898-1946). The American perception has been confounded by World War Two: Americans and Philippinos fought the Japanese together. It is not entirely clear whether the Japanese would have invaded the Philippines in 1941, if that land were Philippine ruled and a neutral country. Before the during the War Golay gives many, substantial reasons why MacArthur earned well, the sobriquet of “Dugout Doug.” 

For 40 years Americans tried to teach the Philippine people to support a home-based democracy, and Americans failed: Missing were the infrastructure, institutions and bureaucracy Americans believed the Philippines needed. For instance one American Governor tried to get the Philippine people to accept a summer capital, which was less hot than Manila. None of the insular peoples needed a “cool” capital. He spent millions constructing roads and building edifices. Face of Empire tells of more failures. It is the experience American has throughout the Twentieth Century until today. For decades the Colonial administration was filled with sycophants, toadies, eggheads, do-gooders, pinheads and chuckleheads wanting to try out theories, conceived in academia, on a whim in Washington DC, or the fantasy of Three Cups of Tea, while all were being overpaid at home, in an exotic land or selling books and appearing on radio [and later on TV].

Additionally came the presence and input of the U.S. Military expensively delivering its two-cents worth. Early on the military boasted: “We conquered this land” [under a Republican administration]. “It’s our blood and treasure.” During the Hoover administration (1932) Republicans would only grant independence after an American overlordship of 25 or 30 years. Independence in 1960? How ridiculous is that? Unsure but aware it was stuck to the United States, the Philippines accepted MacArthur during the Thirties, who was to make every wrong military decision before December 11, 1941.

Colonialism and lingering in a country like Afghanistan, is something the United States of America is no good at doing. It is best not to be there formally. Note that The Face of Empire, as reading material, is heavy lumber.

The Quiet American, Graham Greene, mostly famously details the American involvement and experience in Vietnam, a decade before Lyndon Baines Jerk-Creep committed America to enter a Civil War on the losing side. The Quiet American does not just tell the experience of Americans who were in Vietnam, but also for Americans who was aware of that War (60,000 dead over 11 years to failing TV ratings) experienced what Graham Greene wrote about.

Garrison Tales from Tonquin, James O’Neil, Charles Royster, Ed., were written by an American who was in the French Foreign Legion (circa 1890) serving in Vietnam. He tells of the passive resistance and stubbornness of the Vietnam people bypassing French offers to “help” become colonial subjects. The Tales go beyond Vietnam. The experience of an occupied people, whose culture and society extend almost as far back as French society did, crosses borders. Any country with a settled religion, an on-going culture, a long-standing society will not be penetrated by an outside, invading force. Note after World War Two Germany and Japan surrendered “unconditionally.” Each changed its government, but the culture and the societal strictures remained mostly in tact. The changes in Labor Laws in those two countries fed into and supported the political changes.

In Burmese Days, George Orwell presents a remarkable analysis of the colonial experience: For the colonizer and the colonial it is belittling and dehumanizing to lord over the native peoples. Orwell thereby questions the conventional wisdom of The White Man’s Burden.  

EDITION

A lifetime ago, longer as a writer, I wrote two novels: of Little Human Hearts and Bitch.. When I wanted them to be, neither were ready for publication. of Little Human Hearts is the first, and I’ll write about it here.

I self-published of Little Human Hearts, a story of the late 1950s in Mendocino County. A bright, intelligent eight-year-old boy has his first love affair with his third grade teacher and doesn’t know it. He tells the events of that school year.

I appreciated after self-publishing that the story was not ready. The text fit Mark Twain’s description: the spelling is “majestically lawless.” The word processing was done by a friend who cut and paste the same material twice to the same spot. I was impatient to get the book out and missed it and a whole bunch of other stuff.

The FIRST EDITION drew a review from the Anderson Valley Advertiser, Bruce Anderson: “ON SALE at Copy Plus is a book called “Little Human Hearts” by a youngish man named Karl Rauh. Mr. Rauh grew up in Anderson Valley in the late fifties. His book is based on events and personalities of the time, both in Anderson Valley and on the Mendocino Coast as seen through the eyes of an eight year old boy. I would think – based on my own quick reading – a number of the characters and episodes would be remembered by many old timers…”

I did not grow up in the Anderson Valley. I wrote the book, inserting characters into the setting and contriving events. I had no plausible marketing plan. I exhausted myself moving and trying to distribute the book to bookstores, some which didn’t pay after selling the inventory. I didn’t want to self publish again.

An opportunity came along. A new publisher was accepting submissions. of Little Human Hearts was accepted. I entered the text into word processing and caught a lot of mistakes, but not all. I made a few. Unknown to me the publisher italicized the jokes (humor) in the book. Rather than of Little…, the title became Of Little… The spelling was less lawless. The Second Edition was launched.

The characters were set; the setting was laid out, but the story. How did everything hang together, cogently? Was it coherent, at all? Unknown to me was a review by a reader on vacation, now appearing on Amazon: “This strange and curiously interestingly book I found tucked into the reading material of a Lake Tahoe hotel lobby. I wound up reading it for hours in that bed…Beneath the surface…are smoldering of adult trouble…It is very simply written, easy to skim quickly and yet it goes into such charming details…like hiking in a redwood forest, the sense of awe it inspires, the silence it brings to the visitors, all this he writes about with complete naiveté, like a child…Some readers may find the simplistic writing a bit annoying, but it is a valid style to convey the boy’s memories…”

This review indicates that I was able to advance the boy’s voice completely. But the story was wrong. The marketing of this edition was horrible. Not many people saw it. The First and Second Editions are online for sale at high prices.

In 2009 unprompted by me, the publisher relinquished all rights to of Little Human Hearts. I knew a Third Edition was necessary, but I had lost all feel for the book and the story. The setting was no longer attractive – Mendocino is cold, wet and humid. I’m a desert person – hot and dry. It took some concentration to contrive the energy to edit. What I brought were abilities to tell a story and better capacities to edit. I had to enter of Little Human Hearts into word processing again. While doing that I realized there were three sets of relationships – boy-teacher, boy-sibliings-other children, boy-parents. The emotional charges from one relationship had to enlarge, explicate, and  contrast with the other relationships for the book to develop and tell its story.

Along the way I believe I learned a few things: A daughter who talks to her father a lot, and he challenges her so she enjoys that engagement (female-male) is less likely to fall for the first creep who throws her a line. Next, children who squabble with siblings are doing what comes naturally: They emulate their parents; they strive for attention; they are learning to act and react within this small scale of society. The role of the parents are to limit certain activities and certain speech but never to end the squabbling.

I now sense that the emotional stimuli from the three relationships support and improve the story, allowing the reader to build and arrive at the denouement satisfactorily. I eliminated all the italics; no author needs a signpost saying, I’M TRYING TO BE FUNNY HERE! I was happy the Copyright Office gave me a copyright for the Third Edition, of Little Human Hearts, iBookstore, Michael Ulin Edwards.

HUCK VERITAS

Copyright 2006

Since its publication the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has retained its popularity with the reading public; It’s theme, Motive, Moral and Plot, though, have eluded acclaiming readers, skeptical detractors and literary critics. This confusion was the author’s who wanted the book to sell.

Slavery, Southern society and the Mississippi River seemingly move the story. However, a river of Christianity also runs through the text. Unlike the river waters which purify Huck as Jim and he float into slaveland, Southern constructions of faith, hope and charity from 1 Corinthians 13 are not Christian. This thematic flow gives the novel an ironic soul, making the Adventures a tract against religion as it is practiced.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Mark Twain, was raised a Presbyterian, and he was well acquainted with the King James version of the Bible and other works of English protestantism. Despite wide circulation of those works, Southerners had religion but little Christianity. Huck notes the,

pretty ornery preaching – all about brotherly love and such-like tiresomeness, but everybody said it was a good sermon, and they all talked it over, going home, and had such a powerful lot to say about faith, and good works, and free grace, and preforeordestination, and I don’t know what all, that it did seem to me to be one of the roughest Sundays I had run across yet.(147)

Huck’s questioning comes to him naturally. Startled by Pap and quizzed, Huck reads aloud. Pap growls, First you know you’ll get religion, too.(24) Religion practiced in the South corrupts. A note warning Jim’s captors of a plan to free the slave pleads, I am one of the gang, but have got religgion and wish to quit it and lead an honest life again. (334)

Huck learned the Bible from the widow and Miss Douglas. Ye cannot serve God and mammon, Matthew 6:24. If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast…and come and follow me. Huck gives Judge Thatcher his money in Chapter 5, and throughout the novel he never thinks he can reclaim the money and buy Jim’s freedom.

Huck seeks the more excellent way. The King James version of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, prescribes the conduct of a Christian:

THOUGH I speak with tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

4. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

6. Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

7. Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

9. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10. But when that which is perfect is come, than that which is in part shall be done away.

11. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12, For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

One must act with charity, a Christian love which burns into the heart and pilots all action. A mere act of liturgy, prophecy or charity without the requisite state of mind and heart is nothing. Christians must not be envious, boastful, conceited, proud, rude, selfish or vengeant; they must seek truth and ride the joy of charity overflowing with kindness while withstanding suffering. Throughout the Adventures Huck narrates without judging; he practices faith, hope and charity and learns the greatest of these is charity.

FAITH

Faith is evinced through prayer and professions to piety: …You had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals...(2) Then Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing come of it.(13) When the King and Duke commenced their swindle of the heirs of Peter Wilkes, …they kneeled down and rested their foreheads on the coffin, and let on to pray, all to their selves.(212)

A preacher at the camp meeting aroused the crowd with imaginary visions of the Holy Ghost. They shout[ed] and cri[ed]… tears running down their faces; singing and flinging…themselves down on the straw, just crazy and wild.(172) And the king got agoing (172) about being a pirate in the Indian Ocean, collecting eighty-seven dollars and seventy-five cents. And then he fetched away a three-gallon jug of whisky, too,that he found under a wagon…(174) Slaveowner/preacher, Silas Phelps come in every day or two to pray with Jim, the captured, runaway slave.(309)

But prayer described in the novel mostly departs from Scripture. Matthew, Chapter 6:5-6 directs,

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily, I say unto you, They have their reward. 

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into they closet, and when thou has shut the door, pray to thy Father, which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Southerners manipulated faith. The widow

…learned me about Moses and the bulrushes, and I was in a sweat to find all about him; but by and by she let it out 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.(2)...I wanted to smoke…She said it was a mean practice and wasn’t clean…Here she was a-bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody…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.(3)

The king’s duds was…all black, and he did look real swell and starchy…when he’d take off his new white beaver and make a bow and do a smile, he looked that grand and good and pious that you’d say he had walked right out of the ark, and maybe was old Leviticus himself.(204)

The king and duke…took on about that dead tanner [Peter Wilkes] like they’d lost the twelve disciples.(212)

Despite biblical interdiction, Acts 17:22, superstition of white people throughout the novel resembles the superstition of black folk. Huck thought differently, I judged that all that stuff was only just one of Tom Sawyer’s lies…It had all the marks of a Sunday school.(17)

Southerners have no greater understanding of Christianity than the sensibility of the slave, Jim. The commandment, Ye shall not steal, is modified: …the best way would be for us to pick out two or three things…and say we wouldn’t borrow them any more..it wouldn’t be no harm to borrow the others…(80) About Solomon and his million wives, Jim poses, Now I want to ast you: .what use is a half a chile? I wouldn’t give a dern for a million un um…He as soon chop a chile in two as a cat. Dey’s plenty mo’. A chile or two, mo’er less, warn’t no consekens to Sollermun…(95,96)

Southern whites ignore the tenets of Christianity. The Grangerfords and Shepardsons go to the same church yet feud: If you notice, most folks don’t go to church only when they’ve got to; but a hog is different.(148)

Educated whites disregard the creed. A new judge leading Pap to temperance fails: The judge he felt kind of sore. He said he reckoned a body could reform the old man with a shot-gun, maybe, but he didn’t know no other way.(28) Silas Phelps …was a-studying over…Acts seventeen…(316), an anti-slavery verse, yet Phelps remained a slaveowner.

CHARITY

These professions of faith accompany the revelation of charity in chapter three. Relying on Mark 11:24 [Therefore, I say unto you, What things so ever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye shall receive them, and ye shall have them.], Miss Watson tells Huck, to pray every day and whatever I asked for I would get it. But it warn’t so…Once I got a fish-line, but no hooks. It warn’t any good to me without the hooks.(13) Miss Watson chides the foolishness. Huck asks the widow who tells him …the thing a body could get by praying for it was “spiritual gifts”(13) of 1 Corinthians 14. Benefits of these gifts elude Huck, especially after the widow explained, …what she meant I must help other people, and do everything I could for other people, and look out for them all the time, and never think about myself,..I went out in the woods and turned it over in my mind a long time, but I couldn’t see no advantage about it – except for the other people…(13-14)

Both the widow and Miss Watson urge Huck to practice charity but differ in description of the rewards. The widow’s version is to lead Huck so his actions more closely relate to public benefits of conforming to Southern society. The widow described Providence...to make a body’s mouth water.(14) When Huck dirtied his clothes after a night out …the widow she didn’t scold, but only cleaned off the grease and clay and looked so sorry that I thought I would behave a while if I could.(13)

[B]ut maybe the next day Miss Watson would take hold and knock it [the widow’s providence] all down again. (14) Miss Watson demanded individual, internal reformation of character to make Huck Christian, and she was direct: Well, I got a good going-over in the morning, from old Miss Watson, on account of my clothes;(13) Miss Watson, told me all about the bad place, and I said I wished I was there. She got mad…She said it was wicked to say what I said;…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…(3-4)

Listening to each woman Huck…could see that there was two Providences, and a poor chap would stand considerable show with the widow’s Providence, but if Miss Watson’s got him there warn’t no help for him any more. I thought it all out, and reckoned I would belong to the widow’s, if he wanted me, though I couldn’t make out how he was agoing to be any better off then than what he was before…(14)

Huck favors the widow’s Providence. Miss Watson drives him away. She wants to sell Jim, separating him from familar surroundings and family. Helping Jim escape bothers Huck (52-53, 124-125, 127-128), but he passes over the ramifications as they float South where Huck will learn charity and receive spiritual gifts.

He witnesses events…to make a body ashamed of the human race.(210) The legal system tolerates Pap going for Huck’s money.(Chapters 5,6) Boastful boatmen are …chicken-livered cowards. (111) The Grangerfords and Shepardson families feud. (Chapters 17,18) After Boggs is killed and Colonel Sherburn defies the mob, he notes: If any real lynching’s going to be done, it will be done in the dark, southern fashion; and when they come, they’ll bring their masks…(191) Southerners suffer frauds in the camp meeting, hold overly romantic notions and are duped by the king and duke, giving new significance to the reference about hypocrites who pray in public:…Verily, I say unto you, They have their reward. (Matthew 6:5)

Huck is edgy when the king trusts…in Providence to lead him the profitable way – meaning the devil(204), Huck reckons. [B]eing brothers to a rich dead man, and representatives of furrin heirs that’s got left, is the line for you and me, Bilge. Thish-yer comes of trust’n to Providence.(214)

In Chapter 28 Huck balks, hides the money in the coffin and tells Mary Jane about the scam. He knows he cannot join the widow’s Providence be good and civilized and receive the rewards of Southern society. He tells Mary Jane: …I’d be all right, but there’d be another person that you don’t know about who’d be in big trouble.(240)

Mary Jane responds, Good-bye, I’m going to do everything just as you’ve told me;…and I’ll pray for you too! Pray for me! I reckoned if she knowed me she’d take job that was more nearer her size… and if ever I’d a thought it would do any good for me to pray for her, blamed if I wouldn’t a done it or bust.(244)

In Chapter 31 the king takes a bounty for Jim, a runaway slave. Jim is imprisoned. Huck must choose. The widow instructed him about “spiritual gifts,” and Huck puts them to the test within the Widow’s Providence, again. Seeking absolution, he considers telling her by letter where Jim is:

…it hit me all of a sudden that here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched all the time from up there in heaven, whilst I was stealing a poor old woman’s nigger that hadn’t ever done me no harm, and now was showing me that’s One that’s always on the lookout, and ain’t agoing to allow no such miserable doings to go only just so fur and no further, I most dropped in my tracks, I was so scared…It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray; and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of boy I was, and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn’t come. Why wouldn’t they? It warn’t no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from me, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn’t come. It was because my heart warn’t right; it was because I warn’t square; it was because i was playing double…You can’t pray a lie – I found that out.(268-269)

But Huck doesn’t send the letter because he has internalized the problem of man facing God, thus taking his faith private. He sits in the wigwam of the raft. It – the wigwam and the dilemma – it was a close place like the closet Miss Watson took him into in Chapter Three. Huck ponders whether to follow Christian charity, to help Jim and do everything he could for Jim, look out for Jim and not think about himself.(13) He resolves to rescue Jim, thereby choosing the Providence described by Miss Watson. But he still believes he is controlled by the Providence described by the widow. Southern society will condemn him. Huck says, All right, then, I’ll go to hell…(271)

Clemens made the structure of the Adventures a cross. Faith, hope and charity on the upward pole intersect Southern civilization of whites and Negroes in the Mississippi Valley:

                                                                            C

                                                                            H

                                                                            A

                                                                            R

                                                                            I

                                                                            T

                                                                            Y

                                                   S O U T H E R N  S O C I E T Y

                                                                           F

                                                                           A

                                                                           I

                                                                          T

                                                                          H

                                                                         H

                                                                         O

                                                                         P

                                                                         E

 

When Huck becomes charitable, he finds himself at the junction of the cross. The only character who is charitable and Christian throughout the story is Jim. After Jim’s capture, Huck reflects in the wigwam and voices a prayer:

I see Jim before me, all the time, in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on to of his’n, stead of calling me – so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one’s he’s got now;…(270)

Jim is a slave, and in the novel it is he who is nailed on the cross. Implicit in the narrative are questions: Should Huck save Jim. Should Huck attempt to save the nigger on the cross. Should Huck work himself...up and go and humble [himself] to a nigger: Huck…done it, and I warn’t ever sorry for it afterwards, neither.(105) It is inexplicable that today’s detractors of Huckleberry Finn, like ante-bellum Southerners, don’t believe in humbling themselves to the nigger on the cross and dispute Huck’s decision to save him.

Putting Jim on the cross is controversial, but Clemens advanced the idea in Huck’s prayer. In doing so he mocked Southern whites, the camp meetings and the glory of evangelists’ timeless voices describing appearances of Jesus Christ: “I see Jesus before me, all the time, in the day, in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms…” Moonlight is necessary because Southerners cannot see Jesus in the dark.

HOPE

At the beginning of the novel, the widow wants to sivilize Huckleberry. After charity is explicated in Chapter 31, the remaining eleven chapters exhaust hope found in the widow’s Providence, southern civilization. Tom Sawyer returns to the story, and he conceives a plot to free Jim. But Huck was bothered that Tom, …a boy that was respectable, and well brung up; and had character to lose(292) would help the slave escape. Huck didn’t know it was Tom’s sport; the widow had died and freed Jim in her will.(358) Again, Huck is homeless. He subordinates himself and his new faith to the tomfoolery: He[Tom Sawyer] was always just that particular. Full of principle.(307) Jim, too, recognized the folly but…allowed we was white folks and knowed better than him.(309)

About the escape and Jim’s recapture, Southerners blather about the complexity of the escape scheme and wonder who had done the planning and why – conversations with little bearing to reality.(Chapter 41) Tom Sawyer was proud of the adventure and especially the bullet he took in the leg, which he wore around his neck.(362)

At book’s end Huck heads for the freedom of the Territory; otherwise Aunt Sally is…going to adopt me and sivilize and I can’t stand it. I’ve been there before.(362)

Tom Sawyer was published in 1876, the same year Clemens was feverishly writing Huckleberry Finn. He had more material about the river and Southern society than he could use in one book. The jarring impact of the Civil War was fresh. Clemens had lost his chosen profession of riverboat captain. He set aside the Adventures until 1879-1880, when he wrote a bit more. Following a trip up the Mississippi in 1883, Clemens pumped out Life on the Mississippi detailing the downside of Southern society and Huckleberry Finn in 1884. These books, along with Pudd’nhead Wilson’s exposition of the black man’s plight, 1894, are a trilogy. The Adventures is the hinge book integrating both themes – Southern society and race.

As a novelist Clemens had responsibilities to art and to society. The trilogy was his response to the War – expressions of despair that lessons of the horrible slaughter were forgotten or never learned. The South had not changed. Reconstruction had failed. Slaves, now free Negroes, were drowning in tides of caste and race supported by the civilization which fueled Southern war fever in 1861.

But Mark Twain’s dilemma was laying down camouflage for the anti-religious theme in the novel. By this text he had tied the Adventures to the most widely book read in the English language, the Bible. He released Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a children’s story, a sequel to the popular Tom Sawyer. The same characters appear at the beginning of the Adventures, but the similarity ends with writing style and content. Later, more Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn sequels were published which had nothing to do with the thematic content of Huckleberry Finn. Next, Twain approved original illustrations which show the protagonist as a meek boy of eight or ten years, not the savvy adolescent telling the narrative.

Also some captions to the illustrations are misleading e.g. “thinking” (270). Finally, Twain admonishes readers in a prefatory note from taking the book seriously:

NOTICE – 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 go find a Plot in it will be shot. By Order of the Author, Per G.G., Chief of Ordnance.

Yet the lesson of 1 Corinthians 13 are not forsaken. Faith and charity abide, but there is no hope in Southern civilization in American civilization. Hope is left to the future. For six score years readers have recognized the obvious and have been sidetracked by Mark Twain’s counsel to seek neither motive, moral or plot. Our future is to discover and understand the motive, moral and plot in the Adventures, as Samuel Langhorne Clemens wrote them, and to live accordingly.

NOTE

1. The numbers in the text are pages from the corrected, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2001.

2. This text is largely the same as appears in Criticism, Essays, Stories, iBookstore, Michael Ulin Edwards, FREE.