48 Following


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain To borrow a phrase from Ceridwen, I'd like to punch this book in the nose. Don't get me wrong; Mark Twain's novel is engagingly written and probably a timeless classic for its rich depictions of rural life in the antebellum South; it's just that the "lovable rascal" schtick doesn't work for me. It isn't really the book I have an issue with; it's Tom Sawyer himself I'd like to punch. He's been an icon of carefree boyhood antics for nealy 150 years, and as such he's been a stone in my shoe for as long as I've known him. My mother's dogeared copy from her own childhood has been floating around our household for decades, both predating my own appearance, and remaining after I departed for college. When somebody keeps a book around that long, and it's as lovingly worn as Mom's Tom Sawyer you just know it made an impression at some point. As my mother's only son, I can assure you that to some significant degree, Tom imprinted himself in her imagination as a sort of rough guideline of what a growing boy should be: a spirited imp who passes lazy summers fishin' with his buddies, getting into rough-and-tumble adventures in the great outdoors, swimmin' at the swimmin' hole, and layin' on the hillside chewin' a long stem of grass while lookin' at clouds, &c. That's fine, if that's what you're into. The problem was, that's not what I was into. Twelve year old Brian of 1980 was absolutely nothing like twelve year old Tom Sawyer of 1876. Brian didn't give a fuck about fishing or getting into brawls with the neighborhood boys (just for spirited fun of it) or any of that other damn stuff. If left to my own devices, I would have spent my summers reading in my room, building models, listening to music on my cool cassette player and probably watching more tv than I should have. Introversion isn't a crime, you know... but Tom made his unwelcome influence known more times than I can recall, when I'd be contentedly engaged in one of the above sedentary activities, and Mom would come by and say something like "What are you doing in here on such a beautiful day? You should go outside and play!"To which I responded (although not usually aloud) "Play? What do you think I'm doing here?" But my play didn't really count as "play" in Mom's book. It was Tom's play I was supposed to be engaging in. I had a general sense that "go out and play" probably involved some sort of team sports, which I was not much a fan of, or some vague kind of frolicking in the sunshine, the specifics of which eluded me. Once I went outside though, I never knew exactly what I was supposed to do. More often than not, when shoo'd out of the house, I'd just bring my book with me, and read in the yard. Occasionally Mom would get more aggressive in her efforts and send me away on my bicycle, not to return for a specified time interval. Mostly I'd ride around then, or occasionally drop in on friends to play board games, or some other decidedly non-Sawyeresque activity. Those were the days I knew Tom was conspiring with Mom, whispering like a ghost in her ear to disrupt my favorite pasttimes, and replace them with boyhood romps more alligned with the ideals propegated by Mark Twain and Walt Disney (another of my childhood enemies).My dislike for Tom only grew when I got around to reading his book. I could hardly believe it! Sneaking out of the house late at night? Lying? Not doing chores? Crawling around in prohibited caves? Stealing? Getting into fights?? What the hell?!?!? This is all stuff I would have gotten in trouble for, had I actually done it! Tom Sawyer was like an infuriating sibling who never got held to account; a Bart Simpson, if Bart Simpson wasn't remotely funny. And this was the boy I was supposed to be like?? It was a bitter mixed message; a situation where you just couldn't win. When I look back on the book now, I only recall a few specifics. One of them is the famous fence painting scene. Tom tricks his friends into helping him paint a fence by convincing them how much fun it is. He stands there, whistling and painting away, telling his buddies what a great time he's having, until pretty soon they are begging to be allowed to participate. He refuses at first- wanting to keep the "fun" for himself, but eventually reluctantly remits. I think he even charges them money for the pleasure. What a manipulative bastard. If he were alive today, he'd probably be running a sweatshop somewhere, inducing seven year olds to make Nike sneakers for 30 cents an hour (without bathroom breaks). Or maybe he'd be working as a Director for the Federal Reserve. I can picture him in a press conference, the skinny blonde freckled kid of yesteryear now grown into a doughy, pale late middle aged fat man with bloodshot eyes, jowls, excessive nose and ear hair, and male pattern baldness. He'd stand there with his script, sweating under the camera lights in his ill-fitting suit, and tell the American public how lucky we all are that the Fed is going to "save" us from economic collapse with quantitative easing and a big "liquidity" injection of worthless paper money which will destroy the value of our hard-earned savings. Then he and his Goldman Sachs buddies would duck into a back room to do some lines of blow with Becky Thatcher, laughing all the while at what a bunch of suckers we all are.Fuck you, Tom Sawyer.