It’s slow going.
I’m trying to figure out if I like it.
I’m roughly half-way though. At this point Huck and Jim (the slave who’d wanted to run away to a free state instead of being sold again) are making their way through Arkansas and have been hosting a couple professional liars on their raft. One calls himself a duke and the other a king. Huck is something of a liar, too, and sees through them easily but admires their finesse.
One of the best bits of the book has been with those guys. One’s a top con artist and at one particular town they find out a revival meeting is going on in the woods. He marches onto the stage and lays a thick tale of a pirate life. Then he claims he’s been saved thanks to this revival and wants to take the mission to all the other pirates he knows on the Indian ocean. The gullible locals are in tears over his moving story and insist on taking up a collection so he can continue to do God’s work on the sea. Counting it up at the raft later, the guy netted $85 or so.
This novel was published in 1885. I was curious what that kind of haul could buy back then and came across this:
In early 1884 several traveling salesmen walked across the Ozarks. They came up from Arkansas along the train tracks from Mammoth Springs to West Plains. From West Plains they followed the railroad to Willow Springs, then headed west towards Springfield, through Cabool, Mountain Grove, Norwood and Mansfield. One of them kept a journal describing what he called their “peddling.” This journal tells us a little about the land, towns and life of the Ozarks in 1884.
It lists Missouri prices but Arkansas probably would have been comparable at the time:
For those people who wanted to homestead in the area, the federal government still had land available. There was 75,000 acres of homestead land available in Douglas County, 125,000 in Ozark County and 25,000 in Wright County. This land could be had for a $2 filing fee plus $6 for a 40 acre plot. It cost only $14 dollars to homestead 160 acres of land!
(So the thousand or so bucks that Tom and Huck wound up with at the end of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was one hell of a windfall. I’ve never read that book either; there’s reference to the money at the start of this book, though, and it drives part of the plot at the beginning.)
This is an area of history I know nothing about and have yet gotten around to looking into. Being Canadian, we learned of the expansion into what would become the Canadian provinces and even those details are gone from my brain; Social Studies was not my forte. Names and dates and places.. no thanks.
The meeting is at the end of the month so I still have a couple weeks to get through it but damn.. it’s unusual for me to have this hard a time to get into a book and get it read. Maybe some of it has to do with the writing style and slang and necessity to decipher the parts of speech. I just can’t zip from start to finish like so many other books.
I don’t want to resort to reading Wikipedia entries and watching a crappy film version and then go to my meeting pretending I have a clue and valid input. One guy who came to the last couple book meets has done that and it’s an eye-rolling experience. We don’t have a rule that everyone has to finish the book. We let people come that haven’t read it, but there’s just something about this guy.. he seems to be one of those people who puts more stock in his own wacky theories than he does the ideas and knowledge of others. It’s frustrating to listen to him going on and on. But, whatever.