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Sender: Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
From: Bob Gill <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Mon, 3 Sep 2001 00:33:58 -0400
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> So here is where the question for the scholars come in -- reading "Huck
> Finn" aloud was easy for me.  The words flowed very conversationally, as if
> belonging to tales told at a campfire or at a traveler's inn table.  But
> "Mississippi" and "Roughing" were much harder to read aloud.  The sentences
> seemed long and stumble-y.  They had writer's diction, not speaker's
> diction.
> Is the difference between the oral readability of "Huck Finn" and the other
> books a figment of my imagination, or an accident of my having an inborn
> river-rat timbre and cadence to my voice, or a consequence of Twain's
> successfully setting himself in the thought-and-conversation style of a
> teenager, or writing the other books with less passion, or what, or what, or
> what?  I have seen some comments by Twain indicating that he did not like to
> perform staged readings of his books, which suggests that he was conscious
> of differences of style between his books and his lectures and after-dinner
> speeches.

  In fact, he mentions a story from Roughing It in one such passage _ from his autobiographical dictations, I believe, but it could be from "How To Tell a Story" or something similar. He says he had to make
wholesale changes in the story about Jim Blaine and his grandfather's old ram so he could use it on the lecture circuit, because the version in Roughing It was "too literary." That sounds odd to me, considering how
"spoken" the dialect feels, but I have to admit his revisions do make it easier to read aloud. This account prints the revised version he used in his lectures, which is quite different from the Roughing It version.
(I think Hal Holbrook uses basically the altered version in his shows.) So it's probably not a figment of your imagination.

 -- Bob G.