Finn (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
In Mark Twain’s great Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), Pap is less a full-fledged character than the antic personification of menace. As Twain’s Huck says, “He was just all mud,” but from the opening appearance of his cross-marked boot print to the runaway Jim’s concluding revelation of Pap’s demise in the floating murder house, this pariah casts a shadow that chills the reader almost as much as it threatens Huck. At the same time, the focal character almost seems impotent, too whiskey-weakened and self-defeating to exact his vengeance upon anyone who is not completely powerless. Still, Pap has always provided readers with alluring mysteries: “How did this man become such a lowdown cur? How did he come to his end in that house and amid those peculiar props (cards, black masks, straw hat, women’s lingerie)? Why did the apple Huck fall so far from the tree? And how could such a mangy river rat even manage to sire a son?” Jon Clinch’s premier novel, Finn, sets out to provide a credible and compelling answer to these questions, and it succeeds splendidly because its gritty lyricism is at once authentic and original and because its engagement with the dark forces shaping both the wily Pap and the country that spawned him extends and even deepens the ways Americans ponder both the scoundrel of a classic book and the threads of villainy woven so intricately into the national fabric. As tempting as it might be to content oneself...
(The entire section is 1954 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
Booklist 103, nos. 9/10 (January 1-15, 2007): 49.
Kirkus Reviews 75, no. 2 (January 15, 2007): 5-6.
The New York Times Book Review 156 (March 11, 2007): 24.
Newsweek 149, no. 8 (February 19, 2007): 72.
The Washington Post, February 18, 2007, p. BW03.
(The entire section is 25 words.)