26 August 2022

Just Checking In

Hi. I’m still alive and pretty much fully recovered from the year’s travails, though my right arm is still weak despite physical therapy and ordinary use. I hope to post stuff again in the future, but at the moment I’m bogged down in the routine debris of staying alive. Today, for instance, I spent time looking for change in all the wrong places in the hopes of buying a few items at the store. Time-consuming, but rather dull to write about.

Speaking of time-consuming and dull, I’ve been staring at the textual variations in the various witnesses to Huckleberry Finn, in part simply because I can. I’m struck repeatedly by the way close examination of the manuscript allows the observation of Mark Twain at work. At the beginning of chapter four, for example, he twice starts to pick up the narrative with the salt spilling incident, each time cancelling it to add a bit more background, before actually getting back to the main storyline. In the floating house episode he doesn’t quite know what to do with the wooden leg Huck and Jim found, writing originally “The straps was broke off it, but barring that, it was as good as new.” The last phrase didn’t satisfy him, so at a later stage “as good as new” became “a good enough leg”; at some point between the manuscript and the printed edition he made further alterations. Apparently feeling that the absurdity of Huck and Jim carrying off a wooden leg neither of them had any use for wasn’t enough he pounded the joke into the ground with an added passage: “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.” Reminds me of the old MAD horrifying clichés—Belaboring the Obvious—with the Obvious depicted as a generic monster, with MT bashing it over the head with an oversize pen.

Still, what strikes me is—a lot of this is simply lost in the word-processing world. My instant second thoughts, for example, are mostly not preserved in the final file. (There is more information in the file than you might expect, by the way, a lot of which would not be found in a nineteenth-century manuscript, so it’s a trade-off, I guess.) The changes I’ve made in writing this entry are preserved temporarily, in case I need to undo something, but there would be no evidence of them in a printed copy of the resultant file—or in the version I presumably am going to post online.

Anyway, I’m hoping to return some day. This is not that day. I have nothing to say, and it shows.

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