Percival Everett’s new novel reworks Mark Twain. But ‘James’ has a different mission

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The prolific author and USC professor talks about his new book inspired by ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.’

Percival Everett, the author of more than 30 books, discusses his latest, “James,” a retelling of Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Sign up for our free Book Pages newsletter about bestsellers, authors and more

Percival Everett and Danzy Senna attend the 96th Annual Academy Awards on March 10, 2024 in Hollywood, California. a builder and fixer of most anything and a self-taught reader and writer . He is also a determined man wary of the ways in which slavery not only robs the enslaved of their physical freedom and personal safety, but also how the barbaric practice aims to stifle intellectual and emotional freedom, too.

And so, much of my humor was shaped by Twain, and then when I was older, I did read the unabridged ‘Huck Finn’ and even as a teenager, the depiction of Jim, naively on my part, is problematic. It’s not until I was a little more mature and understood Twain and his position in the culture that I could understand that depiction. Maybe not excuse it completely, but understand it.The novel really is America wandering through this landscape, trying to figure itself out. That’s what Huck is.

I hadn’t thought about that so much, but I like that take on it. For Jim, there’s something at stake in his being able to explore ideas in a literary way. At the other end of that, for him, is a freedom that he can’t physically enjoy.Well, since in the novel, Jim and Huck are separated a lot of the time, those were easy.

 

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