Jayber Crow opens with a riff on the opening of Huckleberry Finn*, admonishing interpreters and explainers of the novel, taking a more fitting revenge on the offerors of cheap analysis than the summary execution that Twain recommended. (As for me, the subtext is staring me right in the chops, so it's with a heavy heart that I accept my banishment.) It's an interesting contrast. I read Twain with a cutting sense of humor and sarcasm, a conflicted soul and a precise stylist, a sense of innocence that he embraced or lambasted with varying degrees of intent. I confess to a preference for the more playful style, and with Twain I do feel a certain sense of Yankee homerism, as well as a minor resonance with a tone that I often try to achieve. I'd say it's that divided spirit, but then here's Berry again, telling us that someone must be "troubled enough in their own hearts to have something to say." Maybe it's all a matter of delivery. Berry's writing is calm and mature, the narration clipped of any cynicism beyond maybe a gentle head shake as Jayber muses on the past. Words are chosen deliberately, in short sentences, and there are hardly any contractions used in the prose. It is a slow voice, like a beloved grandfather saying: stop, sit, listen. He weights everything with a sad foreknowledge of the future. There's a danger of saccharine here, but Berry is in command of the prose, and his heart is sufficiently troubled. The writing is often beautiful.
The comments to this entry are closed.