Huck Finn's America

Huck Finn's America

Mark Twain and the Era That Shaped His Masterpiece

Book - 2015 | First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition.
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A provocative, exuberant, and deeply researched investigation into Mark Twain's writing of Huckleberry Finn , which turns on its head everything we thought we knew about America's favorite icon of childhood.

In Huck Finn's America , award-winning biographer Andrew Levy shows how modern readers have been misunderstanding Huckleberry Finn for decades. Twain's masterpiece, which still sells tens of thousands of copies each year and is taught more than any other American classic, is often discussed either as a carefree adventure story for children or a serious novel about race relations, yet Levy argues convincingly it is neither. Instead, Huck Finn was written at a time when Americans were nervous about youth violence and "uncivilized" bad boys, and a debate was raging about education, popular culture, and responsible parenting -- casting Huck's now-celebrated "freedom" in a very different and very modern light. On issues of race, on the other hand, Twain's lifelong fascination with minstrel shows and black culture inspired him to write a book not about civil rights, but about race's role in entertainment and commerce, the same features upon which much of our own modern consumer culture is also grounded. In Levy's vision, Huck Finn has more to say about contemporary children and race that we have ever imagined--if we are willing to hear it.

An eye-opening, groundbreaking exploration of the character and psyche of Mark Twain as he was writing his most famous novel, Huck Finn's America brings the past to vivid, surprising life, and offers a persuasive--and controversial--argument for why this American classic deserves to be understood anew.
Publisher: New York :, Simon & Schuster,, 2015.
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9781439186961
Characteristics: xxiv, 342 pages


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Jan 15, 2018

I’ve never finished ‘Huck Finn’ as the dialect is a struggle. I always think I will.

Author has interesting insights on that period’s view of children and child raising, the minstrel shows that were popular entertainment and Twain’s own family that were an influence on his writing at that time.

Apr 11, 2015

Excellent interpretation of context for the American Classic, Huck Finn, especially to the timing of its publication and to Mark Twain's personal evolving mindset. Of course everyone has their own opinion about one of the most widely read books in America, but Andy Levy's presents a solid argument and reasoning for his opinions and interpretations presented in this book. Anyway about it, this book is an eye opener to understanding Huck Finn.

Twain was a complex character, and there is no way to reduce the book Huck Finn or its author to any simplistic perspective. Levy dives into the depths of Twain's world and also Levy competently relates the context for Twain's view to own our contemporary issues. Levy suggests Huck Finn was Twain's response to current events in the 1880's (the collapse of Reconstruction, rise of Jim Crow and the Gilded Age, and education reforms requiring universal public education) with a little nostalgia for Twain's own youth. Yet these same issues have come full circle , with recurrent problems of race and education we see again in our own times.

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