walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_Finn_, John Clinch

BPL Adult Book Group selection this month. M. really liked it when she first read it. She reread it, and continues to enjoy the book, citing specifically the quality of the language.

Clinch tells the story of Huck's dad, so as you might readily imagine (if you've actually read the original story), Huck's dad's life wasn't so great either. Grandpa Finn, a lawyer and circuit judge, may not have been physically abusive, but he was shockingly mean nonetheless, and Grandma Finn pretty scary in her own right. Younger brother Will was sick all the time and attracted all the attention. The Finns were so racist that they hired white people to serve them in and around their home. Huck's dad grows up to be a drunk, uber-violent, racist who sort of kidnaps (the circumstances are bizarre, and in this book, that's saying something) a black girl and brings her home to keep house for him, have sex with him and ultimately produce Huck. She more or less explains why Huck isn't a total loss.

Clinch jumps back and forth between before Finn hooks up with Mary (the not-Mrs.), how he hooks up with Mary, when Mary leaves him, when Mary comes back to him without Huck, the time period covered by the original tale, blah, blah, bleeping blah. Nothing structurally helps the reader place themselves in time (or, for that matter, place), possibly intending to reflect the chaos that is whatever is left of the alcohol-poisoned mind of Finn.

The dialogue is odd, and not in a way I found particularly compatible with the original.

The POV of the novel jumps around a lot, unlike the original.

While it is easy enough to find problems with the light tone and sense of humor of the original, Clinch's book is so unremittingly grim it's a little difficult to justify the book's existence. It's not entertainment. It's not clear what anyone might learn from it (alcohol bad. racism bad. slavery bad. rape and murder bad. blah, blah, bleeping, blah). One of the few things it might have in common with the original is an ease with which it can be interpreted in dramatically different ways. For example, M. found Finn (the character) to be completely honest, while I perceived him as reflexively lying at all times whether it did him any good at the time or not, and the only really honest thing about him was that he was quite direct about his hostility. To more or less everyone.

I didn't mean to write a review. It's a sordid, sorry waste of everyone's time, imo. Avoid it. Please.

ETA: There are a surprising number of basic factual errors in many of the reviews over on Amazon (including the Reed review, which thoroughly goat-fucked the plotline -- not that the plot wasn't totally asking for it). Oh, and people seem to really like this book. They are nuts.
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