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Finn by Jon Clinch
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Finn (2007)

by Jon Clinch

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6664614,402 (3.84)111
  1. 10
    My Jim by Nancy Rawles (sungene)
    sungene: about the wife left behind by Jim, Huck Finn's companion.
  2. 10
    The Road by Cormac McCarthy (sungene)
    sungene: Different era, different springboard, yet a similar exploration of how evil resides in men, and the brutality and violence man is capable of.
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Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
I found it a little hard to follow when the timeline kept jumping back and forth. I'd have done better with some dates at the beginning of the chapter so I knew when I was reading of. The story line itself was good, answers questions one might have asked about Huck's dad and how he came to be living with the Widow Douglas. ( )
  MynTop | Apr 8, 2016 |
I fell in love with the writing of Mark Twain in Junior High and High School. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was always one of my favorites, not only because of the fun adventures and outrageously ridiculous humor but also because of the great depth and thought of the story filled with so many layers and nuances of historical social dynamics and beliefs. As a result very naturally intrigued by Finn, a new novel telling the story of Huck's father "Pap" Finn.

The book follows the life of Pap Finn (mostly just called "Finn" in the book as he never receives a true first name). There are a few scenes and recollections about his youth but mostly the novel focuses on his adult life in the time leading up to Huck's birth and the years that follow until the ultimate discovery of his death as outlined in the original novel by Twain. The organization of the chapters was occasionally disorienting with limited indication of timing since from one chapter to another we may jump forward or backward in time by a handful of years. It was only significantly disorienting once or twice but when it did happen I wondered as to the intent of such jumps other than perhaps to help the reader feel as unsteady and flailing as Finn was in his own life.

The tone, language and literary styling of the novel are impressive. The book is well written. In some regard there seems to be a desire to imitate Twain's rhetoric and uphold the 19th century language of the previous novel. But the tone and content of this book necessarily result in stylistic differences that make this a much darker novel even in the moments of levity. 'Finn' has some scenes which are indeed laughable but the tone makes them tragically funny as opposed to the laugh-out-loud humor of 'Huckleberry.'

We are given scenes outlining the strained relationship between Finn and his family members. Finn's father looks at Finn with absolute disgust and hatred that has gone on for years. Finn's brother provides token olive branches where he can but is limited by a need to remain in the good graces of his father and society. As a result, Finn is left to his own devices. His broken family life sends him into the world with a spiteful attitude and a feeling that everyone is out to get him and that the only person he can count on is himself. Fortunately Finn is capable enough to find odd jobs and thus scrapes to stay alive...but only barely so. And as his vices increase, his ability to survive diminishes.

As despicable as Finn was in the Twain novel, his portrayal here is taken down into even more depravity. Any attempts to try and soften him and make us sympathetic to his plight are quickly destroyed by his relentless return to despicable behavior. His vile actions are alluded to by Twain but they are readily presented and acted out in Clinch's book. Finn is involved in lewd drunkenness but also in brutality, rape and murder of others (primarily Blacks and especially women). While this novel doesn't have the gratuitous violence of a horror novel, it is definitely ratcheted up a notch for "literary fiction." Even though the scenes may not have been "as bad as they could be", the matter-of-fact nature of the scenes and Finn's apathetic attitude towards his behavior increased the problem of each scene. Fortunately there aren't a ton of sequences or this novel would be even more troubling. In some of the more poignant moments there is a glimmer of thoughtful contemplation by Finn and it almost seems as if he will try to present some redeeming qualities and become a character for which we can sympathize or pity. These glimpses are sadly more short lived than I would have hoped and when Finn's tale finally ends it's difficult to feel much compassion for him at all.

All of that said, it is difficult to wholly recommend Finn to my friends and family. I'm not saying "YOU" shouldn't read it...but I don't know necessarily who "YOU" are so I can't entirely make that call for you. But to the people that I normally recommend books to or discuss books with, this is not a recommendation. As a novel, it has plenty of good qualities and allows for some very thought provoking moments. It definitely exists as more than a simple 'foil' to the previous Twain novel. There is a depth here that lets it stand on its own merits. However, I feel like taking "Finn" without looking at "Huckleberry" would result in a much different reading...a reading that can be appreciated for writing style and quality but which may become less meaningful other than as an exploration into the disgusting behavior of a sadistic, racist, violent alcoholic in 19th century America. And for me, that is a difficult novel to swallow in any form. As far as what it does as a companion piece to "Huckleberry", I'm left with the feeling that Clinch did a good job at fleshing out Finn but at the end of the day, I don't feel like it was something that really "had to be done."

***
2.5 out of 5 Stars ( )
  theokester | Sep 9, 2015 |
Brilliantly well written and absolutely mesmerizing reimagining of the Huck Finn story focusing on Huck's father. This is a dark, dark story and Finn is a completely despicable character. I can't say that I enjoyed reading the story but I'm not sure I'll ever forget it. ( )
  vnesting | Oct 26, 2014 |
A revisiting of the world of Huck Finn. The lyrical writing would seem to be at odds with the portayal of Pap Finn, a man of brutish nature and actions, but it works. This dichotomy is set up from the first poetic sentence -- which describes a dead body floating down a river.

The complex plot and deep characterization make for a rich, rewarding read. The author has skillfully fitted his tale into the lacunae of Twain's work.

My only quibble is that the author has used the devise of alternating repeatedly between two converging timelines and it is confusing at times to keep track of which timeline you're in. But over all, a fine book. ( )
  borbet | Oct 21, 2014 |
The book dovetails nicely with Huck's original story. It fully develops Huck's father, a minor character in Twain's story. It doesn't make him any more likeable than he is in Huckleberry Finn, but you understand him better. He is loathsome and evil, but now you can see why. The writing itself is excellent and Clinch never attempts to imitate Mark Twain--a wise decision. I thoroughly enjoyed it (even while despising the character of Finn) and will definitely read Mr. Clinch's future novels. ( )
  darcy36 | Jul 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
Jon Clinch possesses the imagination and technical skills that will produce wonderful novels. Perhaps he needs to discover his own literary universe, rather than borrow from such as Twain and McCarthy
 
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For Wendy and Emily, without whom, nothing.
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Under a low sun, pursued by fish and mounted by crows and veiled in a loud languid swarm of bluebottle flies, the body comes down the river like a deadfall stripped clean.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812977149, Paperback)

In this masterful debut by a major new voice in fiction, Jon Clinch takes us on a journey into the history and heart of one of American literature’s most brutal and mysterious figures: Huckleberry Finn’s father. The result is a deeply original tour de force that springs from Twain’s classic novel but takes on a fully realized life of its own.

Finn sets a tragic figure loose in a landscape at once familiar and mythic. It begins and ends with a lifeless body–flayed and stripped of all identifying marks–drifting down the Mississippi. The circumstances of the murder, and the secret of the victim’s identity, shape Finn’s story as they will shape his life and his death.

Along the way Clinch introduces a cast of unforgettable characters: Finn’s terrifying father, known only as the Judge; his sickly, sycophantic brother, Will; blind Bliss, a secretive moonshiner; the strong and quick-witted Mary, a stolen slave who becomes Finn’s mistress; and of course young Huck himself. In daring to re-create Huck for a new generation, Clinch gives us a living boy in all his human complexity–not an icon, not a myth, but a real child facing vast possibilities in a world alternately dangerous and bright.

Finn is a novel about race; about paternity in its many guises; about the shame of a nation recapitulated by the shame of one absolutely unforgettable family. Above all, Finn reaches back into the darkest waters of America’s past to fashion something compelling, fearless, and new.

Praise for Finn
“A brave and ambitious debut novel… It stands on its own while giving new life and meaning to Twain’s novel, which has been stirring passions and debates since 1885… triumph of imagination and graceful writing…. Bookstores and libraries shelve novels alphabetically by authors’ names. That leaves Clinch a long way from Twain. But on my bookshelves, they'll lean against each other. I’d like to think that the cantankerous Twain would welcome the company.”
USA TODAY

“Ravishing…In the saga of this tormented human being, Clinch brings us a radical (and endlessly debatable) new take on Twain’s classic, and a stand-alone marvel of a novel. Grade: A.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

“A fascinating, original read.”
people

“Haunting…Clinch reimagines Finn in a strikingly original way, replacing Huck’s voice with his own magisterial vision–one that’s nothing short of revelatory…Spellbinding.”
WASHINGTON POST

“Meticulously crafted…Marvelous imagination…The Finn of Clinch’s novel is certainly a racist villain but also psychologically disturbed and disconcertingly compelling.”
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

“From the barest of hints in Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, Clinch has created a fully believable world inhabited by fully realized characters. Clinch treads dangerous ground in making one of America’s greatest novels his jumping-off point, but he brings it off magnificently…The language of this book is one of its great beauties…Finn is far from one-dimensional, and that is another beauty of the book. Clinch has a knack for putting us squarely inside the heads of his characters….Clinch draws as compelling and realistic a picture as any we’re likely to find…Finn stands on its own. The richness of its language, the depth of its characters, the emotional and societal tangles through which they struggle to navigate add up to a portrait of life on the Mississippi as we’ve never before experienced it.”
dallas morning news

“His models may include Cormac McCarthy, and Charles Frazier, whose Cold Mountain also has a voice that sounds like 19th-century American (both formal and colloquial) but has a contemporary terseness and spikiness. This voice couldn’t be better suited to a historical novel with a modernist sensibility: Clinch’s riverbank Missouri feels postapocalyptic, and his Pap Finn is a crazed yet wily survivor in a polluted landscape…Clinch’s Pap is a convincingly nightmarish extrapolation of Twain’s. He’s the mad, lost and dangerous center of a world we’d hate to live in–or do we still live there?–and crave to revisit as soon as we close the book.”
newsweek

“I haven’t been swallowed whole by a work of fiction in some time. Jon Clinch’s first novel has done it: sucked me under like I was a rag doll thrown into the wake of a Mississippi steamboat…Jon Clinch has turned in a nearly perfect first book, a creative response that matches The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in intensity and tenacious soul-searching about racism. I wish I could write well enough to construct a dramatic, subtle and mysterious story out of careful, plodding and unromantic prose, but for now I’m just happy to have an alchemist like Jon Clinch do it for me.”
BOOKSLUT

Finn strikes its most original chords in its bold imagining of possibilities left unexplored by Huckleberry Finn.”
austin american-statesman

“An inspired riff on one of literature’s all-time great villains…This tale of fathers and sons, slavery and freedom, better angels at war with dark demons, is filled with passages of brilliant description, violence that is close-up and terrifying…Everything in this novel could have happened, and we believe it… so the great river of stories is too, twisting and turning, inspiring such surprising and inspired riffs and tributes as Finn.”
new orleans times-picayune

“A triumph of succesful plotting, convincing characterization and lyrical prose.”
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS

“Shocking and charming. Clinch creates a folk-art masterpiece that will delight, beguile and entertain as it does justice to its predecessor…In Finn, Clinch expands the bloodlines and scope of the original story and casts new light on the troubled legacy of our country’s infamous past.”
new york post

“In Clinch’s retelling, Pap Finn comes vibrantly to life as a complex, mysterious, strangely likable figure…Clinch includes many sharply realized, sometimes harrowing, even gruesome scenes…Finn should appeal not only to scholars of 19th century literature but to anyone who cares to sample a forceful debut novel inspired by a now-mythic American story.”
atlanta journal-consitution

“What makes bearable this river voyage that never ventures far beyond the banks is the compelling narrative Clinch has created. He writes exceedingly well, not with the immediacy Twain imbued to Huck's voice, but with an impersonal narrator’s voice that almost perversely refuses to take sides. And the plot is masterful.”
fredericksburg freelance-star

“Disturbing and darkly compelling…Clinch displays impressive imagination and descriptiveness…anyone who encounters Finn will long be hautned by this dark and bloody tale.”
hartford courant

“Jon Clinch pulls off the near impossible in his new novel, Finn, which brings Huck's dad to life in all his terrible humanness…Clinch vividly paints the origins of the amazing Huck...powerfully told.”
winston-salem journal

“Gripping…he inventively remaps known literary territory…the descriptive riffs are lucent.”
chicago tribune

“The best debut so far of 2007.”
men’s journal

“Inventing Huckleberry Finn’s father using only the thin scraps of information that Mark Twain provided is a pretty admirable feat, and reading Jon Clinch’s first novel provides an almost tactile pleasure…Clinch clearly respects Twain, but he doesn’t feel especially cowed by his inspiration, and some of his inventions qualify as genuine improvements on the original text.”
washington city paper

“In this darkly luminous debut…Clinch lyrically renders the Mississippi River’s ceaseless flow, while revealing Finn’s brutal contradictions, his violence, arrogance and self-reproach.”
Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

“Bold and deeply disturbing. . . A few incidents duplicate those in Twain,
but the novels could not be more different; instead of Huck’s unlettered child’s voice,
we have an omniscient narrative, grave, erudite and rich in the secretions of adult knowledge;
terse dialogue acts as an effective counterpoint. All along, Clinch’s intent
is to probe the nature of evil . . . a memorable debut, likely to make waves.”
KIRKUS REVIEWS, STARRED review

“Every fan of Twain’s masterpiece will want to read this inspired spin-off, which could become an unofficial companion volume.”
LIBRARY JOURNAL, STARRED review

“This is a bold debut that takes a few tentative steps in tandem with the familiar Twain,
but then veers off dexterously down a much more insidious, harrowing path.”
BOOKLIST

“Jon Clinch’s first novel Finn…succeeds wonderfully because its gritty lyricism is at once authentic and original…reminiscent at times of Cormac McCarthy…the eloquence of the telling will never make the courageous reader wish for a gentler touch. Like any appealing novel, Finn achieves the force of a dream with fascinating actions, indelible characters and spellbinding language. Its ...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:48 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"In this debut by a major new voice in fiction, Jon Clinch takes us on a journey into the history and heart of one of American literature's most brutal and mysterious figures: Huckleberry Finn's father. The result is a deeply original tour de force that springs from Twain's classic novel but takes on a fully realized life of its own." "Finn sets a tragic figure loose in a landscape at once familiar and mythic. It begins and ends with a lifeless body - flayed and stripped of all identifying marks - drifting down the Mississippi. The circumstances of the murder, and the secret of the victim's identity, shape Finn's story as they will shape his life and his death." "Along the way Clinch introduces a cast of unforgettable characters: Finn's terrifying father, known only as the Judge; his sickly, sycophantic brother, Will; blind Bliss, a secretive moonshiner; the strong and quick-witted Mary, a stolen slave who becomes Finn's mistress; and of course young Huck himself. In daring to re-create Huck for a new generation, Clinch gives us a living boy in all his human complexity - not an icon, not a myth, but a real child facing vast possibilities in a world alternately dangerous and bright." "Finn is a novel about race; about paternity in its many guises; about the shame of a nation recapitulated by the shame of one absolutely unforgettable family. Above all, Finn reaches back into the darkest waters of America's past to fashion something compelling, fearless, and new."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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