Last year some high school teachers asked me to help a student with severe
reading limitations, by reading the text of Huckleberry Finn onto cassette
tapes for him. Knowing that I would stumble over words occasionally, or
miss the correct emphasis and accenting, I recorded the readings directly
into disk files, so I could repeat sentences that I had not rendered
correctly, and then edit out the incorrect ones.
After I copied those files to tape for the student, I converted the chapter
readings to mp3 and put them on a free web site.
On the web site, I also included some selections of "character vignettes"
and some brief speculations about what an authentic "Huck" voice would sound
like -- i.e., a late teen's/early 20's first-person participant's voice.
A few months later, just because I like them, I added a few selected
readings from "Life on the Mississippi" and "Roughing It".
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
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
r dee colvett