Who decides which books are the best of all time? Recently, W.W. Norton and Co. (the Norton anthology people) asked 125 of the greatest living writers to make their top ten lists, then crunched the numbers to get a consensus top 10. According to these people, who are a pretty good sample, Huckleberry Finn is the fifth greatest book of all time.
Mark Twain published Huckleberry Finn in 1885, and it’s one of the first American books written in the style called “local color regionalism.” Oh, there’s lots of color in the book, all right. So much that some super sensitive souls can’t handle it, and want the book banned. These people are on both sides of the political spectrum, showing that you can be a fool with any political leaning.
Actually, the book was controversial from the beginning. The Concord, Mass. library refused to carry it, saying “…the whole book being more suited to the slums than to intelligent, respectable people.” And writer Louisa May Alcott took time out from writing books like Little Women to say that if Twain couldn’t “think of something better to tell our pure-minded lads and lasses he had best stop writing for them.”
Fortunately, cooler heads have prevailed – then and now. Yes, there are parts of the book that are uncomfortable to read. But its place in the history of American literature is secure, regardless of those who would tell us what we should think.