2529 Followers
67 Following
chrisblocker

Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Currently reading

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
Natalie Goldberg, Julia Cameron
Home Fire: A Novel
Kamila Shamsie
A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present
Howard Zinn

Review: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain, Frank Conroy

I've returned to the river.



A year ago I spent a weekend on the Missouri River attending a Writers Workshop. In typical Chris Blocker fashion, I thought it prudent to read something riverish. I selected Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi (my review). Thus a new association was born and once I decided I was returning to the river, one of my first considerations was what Mark Twain book I'd read this year.

I was hesitant to get into the Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn story-arc. I had a feeling I'd be underwhelmed or offended. I was leaning toward a different selection, but at the last minute, I decided to go with a classic. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer wasn't that bad—not as bad as I imagined it could be—but it certainly didn't impress me too much. Part of the issue is that Tom Sawyer feels slightly underdeveloped—ideas are used seemingly haphazardly and are recycled throughout the story. And part of the issue is that some of the novels better moments have become cliché. I recognize that Twain was likely the originator of some of these ideas—at least he was probably the prominent figure who introduced them into the American narrative. But I've seen enough Our Gang to know that children who play pirates will find treasure, children who fake death will convince everyone, and that little boys will always win a kiss from the girl of their dreams. It's not Twain's fault that his story has been resurrected repeatedly, but the familiarity minimized any sense of wonder and adventure I might have had had I come across this book 130 years ago.

In a different time, this book may have had a much different impact on me. This is a strong story of adventure from a unique child-like perspective. Those who enjoy a little swashbuckling or hijinx will likely eat this story up like blackberry pie. (Why blackberry pie? I don't know. It just feels like something I'd expect from these characters.) With a different person, there would've been different results: I'm not one for adventure; I was never a child. It's a good, simple story, very much plot-driven, but I didn't see much else to it.

Sadly, this book didn't hold to the river like I thought it would. There are a few mentions, a few explorations, but I have the notion that Huckleberry Finn is the more river-centric of the two. Will I explore the river someday with Huck? I don't know. I probably should, but I have the same hesitance I did with Tom Sawyer. Maybe I'll leave it up to the river. If it's able to pull me back another time, I'll consider it.