By Dee Fisher
By Dee Fisher

I belong to a web community called GoodReads (located at goodreads.com) that brings together people who love books and reading. You can keep track of your library, look at new releases of all genres and share your opinions on your favorite books and authors. One of the forums I belong to is called, "50 books to read before you die." The creators of the forum came up with a list (that forum members can adjust, with the approval of the rest of the group) of fifty works, mostly American literature, that they felt were musts for the well versed reader. Number forty-three on the list is Mark Twain's classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

If you're like me, you read a lot of classics in high school and college literature classes. Some of them stuck with me (like Jane Eyre and The Lord of the Rings trilogy), and others were just assignments to be completed. Huckleberry Finn was one of the former, something that challenged me (in the dialect employed) and also interested me, as the 19th century in American history is one of my favorite eras. It was a groundbreaking work in its day, being one of the first American works to use the raw vernacular of the common man to create literature. Ernest Hemingway wrote in Green Hills of Africa, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called 'Huckleberry Finn.'...It's the best book we've had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."

This winter, Van Wert Civic Theatre opens its doors with Big River, a musical by Roger Miller that brings us a lyrical version of Mark Twain's story. Auditions will be held at the beginning of next week, on December 2 and 3, at the theatre, and, believe me, there is a part for nearly everyone! Besides the main roles of Huck and Jim, there are many other roles for all ages. If you've always wanted to be in a musical or get back into stagework, this is the show for you. Don't worry if you think you can't sing - come on over and audition, and let the directors be the judge of where you fit into the cast.

As we prepare for auditions and rehearsals, I have decided to reread the original classic story of Huckleberry and Jim's adventures. Why don't you join me? We'll look at the story Twain concocted, and also how the book has affected American literature and culture. It's a fascinating story, worthy of Mark Twain's tall tales. Huckleberry Finn's story was considered obscene at its first publication, and it has been called everything from brilliant to racist in the years since. I think every man should be his own judge of this uniquely American classic.

By the way, if you're wondering about the title I gave this post, I was referring to the real name of Huck's creator, Samuel Langhorne Clemens. This coming Friday, Nov. 30, will mark the 177th anniversary of his birth in Florida, Missouri. Let's make it a weekend and honor his memory by coming out to auditions for this musical based on one of his most famous works. I think he would be pleased at how Huck and his friends have lived on after him. Here's what he said about his own writing: "My books are water; those of the great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water."

See you at the show!