Wednesday, June 11, 2008 

A Test Post

This here's a test post. Nothing to see here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 

Southern lit review: Jon Clinch's Finn

Just finished up an exceptional book, Jon Clinch's Finn, which tells the story of Huckleberry Finn's father from before Huck's birth to just before his final appearance in Twain's novel. Finn, as he's called here, is a brutal, cruel man, lustful and petty and violent and indifferent all at once. Clinch has done something fascinating here, taking perhaps the best-known work of American literature -- Hemingway called it the wellspring from which all American fiction sprang -- and offering us a chance to view it in a completely new, yet utterly appropriate, light.

The entire book stems from these few paragraphs in Chapter 9 of Huckleberry Finn, when Huck and Jim come across the corpse of Finn himself in a ruined cabin:

"It's a dead man. Yes, indeedy; naked, too. He's ben shot in de back. I reck'n he's ben dead two er three days. Come in, Huck, but doan' look at his face -- it's too gashly."

I didn't look at him at all. Jim throwed some old rags over him, but he needn't done it; I didn't want to see him. There was heaps of old greasy cards scattered around over the floor, and old whisky bottles, and a couple of masks made out of black cloth; and all over the walls was the ignorantest kind of words and pictures made with charcoal. There was two old dirty calico dresses, and a sun-bonnet, and some women's underclothes hanging against the wall, and some men's clothing, too. We put the lot into the canoe -- it might come good. There was a boy's old speckled straw hat on the floor; I took that, too. And there was a bottle that had had milk in it, and it had a rag stopper for a baby to suck ... Jim he found a ratty old fiddle-bow, and a wooden leg. The straps was broke off of it, but, barring that, it was a good enough leg, though it was too long for me and not long enough for Jim, and we couldn't find the other one, though we hunted all around.

Every single item named in that list there plays a significant role in Finn, and it's only after reading both together that you see how seamlessly Clinch wove his story around Twain's. The narrative loops around and around; the payoff for certain events hinted at in the book's final pages actually came in the opening ten. It can be confusing as hell, at first, particularly with the apocalyptic William Gay/Cormac McCarthy Southern gothic tone and vocabulary, but once I finished it I literally flipped right back to the start and reread the first hundred pages to get the full sense of what had happened.

And while Huckleberry Finn is taught in middle schools -- at least, those not held prisoner by illiterate ideologues -- Finn is most definitely an adults-only book. Cannibalism, perversion, coldblooded murder -- this is not a book for the squeamish. But Clinch has created a classic American figure out of the sketches Twain left behind, even adding a fascinating new twist to Huck himself that helps explain so much of why he did what he did. But Finn's tragedy is how he never even thought to light out for the territories the way his son would.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008 

Fly the friendly skies of Tegucigalpa

When I was dating the lovely woman who would become my wife, we used to grab a couple sandwiches, go to a little field just north of the National (now Reagan) Airport runways in Washington, D.C., and sit and watch the planes fly right over our heads. I can't imagine that's still possible now -- any of my DC-area readers verify this? -- because it damn sure looked like you could bounce a tennis ball off the underside of the plane.

And that's nothing compared to this, a landing in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where a plane skidded off the runway last weekend. (After seeing the video, all I have to say is, "only one plane?")

You see stuff like that, and you start to think that maybe donkeys aren't such a bad transportation option after all.


Monday, June 02, 2008 

Marvel 1985 #1: Letting loose the inner geek

Ah, 1985. A watershed year in comics, a year in which the last of the old innocent Silver Age comics died out and the first of the grim-n-gritty comics slouched onto the main stage. A time when The New Teen Titans and the Uncanny X-Men ruled the world, when Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars revamped all of comicdom. John Byrne's depowered Superman and Frank Miller's dehumanized Batman were still a year in the future.

In short, it was a damn good time to be a young comics geek.

Now, Marvel has produced "Marvel 1985," a six-issue series set in that year, but in this world. It's like a mainline jolt of nostalgia, so fierce and sharp I feel like I ought to be listening to Rush and pretending like I don't hear Mom calling me to dinner. The plot is pretty simple: villains from the Marvel Universe cross over into ours, and hell breaks loose.

Or not; this issue was all setup and very little action. Written by Mark Millar, who's always had an air of calculated cool to his work that veers between kick-ass and contrived, 1985 looks like it's going to be a hell of a good series that knows it's going to be a hell of a good series. Make sense? No? Well, hell with it, then. Here's my favorite two-panel sequence from the book, when the young protagonist goes to visit the strange visitors who have moved into the previously abandoned house in his neighborhood:

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That's the Red Skull there leering out of an upstairs window, and that right there is badass creepy. Dunno if 1985 can sustain the skin-crawling strangeness it's set up -- I'd much prefer that to an all-out battle -- but yeah, I'm on board.


Jay Busbee runs Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR Blog From The Marbles, Atlanta Magazine's Atlanta sports blog Right Down Peachtree, and the Southern sports/humor blog Sports Gone South. He also writes for damn near anybody who'll throw him a buck and a byline, and he's at work on the books The Quiet Dynasty: The History Of The Atlanta Braves' Championship Run (2009, Sports Publishing LLC) and God Is A Bulldog: Georgia, Florida, And The Greatest Play In College Football History (2010, Sports Publishing LLC). Click below for more info on his novels, articles, and comics.
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