Thursday, June 9, 2011

I am a prisoner to my own enthusiasms!

During my recent trip to Sudan, I spent part of my downtime reading a book called Wicked River, an anecdotal history of the Mississippi River before and during the Civil War. The book was a lot of fun (I highly recommend it) and--as is often the case when I like something--it made me want to read something similar. In this case, I was struck with an urge to re-read some Mark Twain.

Fortunately, despite being located in one of the poorest places in the world without a single bookstore or library at hand, I had my Kindle, which contained (among many other items) the complete works of Mark Twain. My last Saturday there, with no teaching responsibilities for the day, I spent several hours reading through Tom Sawyer. Gee whiz, that was fun. It might actually be a decade or more since I read it last.

A few days later, I read Huckleberry Finn during the plane ride from Entebbe to London. The beginning of Chapter 19 of Huck Finn, by the way, is arguably the finest piece of prose ever written. Read it here and see for yourself.

On the plane ride from London to Tampa the next day, I started Public Enemies, by Bryan Burrough, an excellent history of the birth of the FBI and the pursuit of criminals such as Dillinger, Bonnie & Clyde and the Barker Gang.

Well, THAT made me want to re-watch James Cagney's slam-bang movie version of those events: 1935's G-Men. It's not an historically accurate account at all--the bad guys are all fictionalized and the general flow of events make the FBI look a lot more competent than they were in those early days. But it's a great movie--I wrote about it in this post a few years ago and outlined its strengths.

So there you have it--I'm a slave to my own enthusiasms. Read a book on the Mississippi and I just gotta read Mark Twain. Read a book on the bank robbers of the early 1930s and I just gotta watch a Cagney movie.

Thank goodness for tools like the Kindle or DVDs that provide me with instant gratification. Otherwise, I'd be an emotional wreck.

By the way, here's a sample of the most bizarre use of Huck, Tom and Becky Thatcher ever:

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