This week (February 18) marks the 125th anniversary of the American debut of Mark Twain's ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN.
I read the book for the first time as a kid, maybe nine or ten. I'd already read THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER and loved it. Tom was just the kind of rebellious troublemaking kid that I wasn't, and I wanted more. So I went looking for it in Huck Finn. The book was supposed to be a sequel, wasn't it?
Well, yes and no. It didn't take me long to discover that this book was different, it was more. And probably more than I was ready for. I really didn't fully appreciate the book until I read it as a high schooler.
But I wasn't alone in thinking that HUCK FINN would just lead off where TOM SAWYER had ended. I recall reading that Twain had originally envisioned the book the same way. He started writing it as a sequel. But at some point, he paused and took a second look at where the book was going. He set the manuscript aside for a few years. When he was ready, he took it up again. The reult was an American classic and a masterpiece of fiction.
I have to wonder how hard it was for Twain to wait. How many of us slog on with manuscripts that aren't really ready, aren't quite "there" yet, just out of the misguided notion that we have to keep working? It takes real strength to admit that we are not yet the writer equal to our subject.
I probably would have been happier as a nine year old if HUCK FINN had been the book I wanted. But I would have been the poorer for it.