Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Even Twain didn't know.
Mark Twain put aside Huckleberry Finn for years and years. He had written 80+ pages and didn't think the novel had much going for it. He thought A Connecticut Yankee was his best work. (Thank you, John, for this tidbit!)
So, how can we? How can we judge what is worth writing and what isn't? What we keep and what we toss? A writer in our group is cleaning up her Opus. She brings stuff to our group, reads it outloud takes our suggestions. She trusts others to tell her what is good. Her own compass has been slipping and flopping and bending too much one way or another.
Somebody or something must have gotten Samuel C. to finish his masterpiece, a story of a runaway boy and a runaway slave on a journey to the darkest depth of a nation, reaching for wholeness, self-worth. Samuel C. must have listened to his deeper voice, his sense of what was most troubling to him and to his fellow men at that time.
Huckleberry Finn was not instantly popular with readers. Even today, in some remote town with border sensibilities and tenacious bigotry, the book is a hot rod, pitting neighbor against neighbor. Even today, the book speaks to our deeper selves.
Everyday, we make choices of what to read, what to buy, what to write. We choose what to write in a blog, and what to say to a fellow blogger. We decide what is good, what is worthwhile, what is deep and sensitive, what is the voice of a people, the timbre of a generation. We choose, we subscribe, we encourage.
It is hard to know. It is hard to judge. But artists need our support and encouragement because without those things artists will continue to show us only the things they know we will like right away. They will never show us their deepest pain, their murkiest shame, their cloudiest dreams.