Huck and Jim Not Setting Off the Gaydar
To the Editor:
After reading John Lauritsen’s review of Manly Love [in the March-April issue], I decided to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a lacuna in my cultural education. It is indeed a masterpiece, and it’s true that there’s a very strong bond of affection between Jim and Huck. However, I saw no sexual overtones to it. Also, while Lauritsen is technically correct that “Jim’s age is never given explicitly,” there is a line in the novel that shows he must be considerably older than 23. Near the end of the book (chapter 35), when Tom Sawyer is planning Jim’s (completely unnecessary) escape from a small shed, he proposes digging him out and says that it could take years. Huck replies “Jim’s too old to be dug out with a case knife. He won’t last.” So Jim must be considerably older than his early twenties.
Richard Berrong, Cuyahoga Falls, OH
“Body Scan” BTW Missed the Mark
To the Editor:
Really, guys—relevance, syntax, vocabulary—I’m disappointed on several fronts by this usually enjoyable page of miscellany in the March-April issue. “Exhibit C” is about Americans’ body concepts vis a vis full-body scanning. Why is this gay? I’m sure you have an answer, and I look forward to it. But a single sentence articulating the relevance would have been appreciated. “Flaunting the Law” (sic) is either a deeply recursive word play, in the incomprehensible manner of Proust’s aunts, or more likely, someone really didn’t know the difference between flaunt and flout. Lastly, that same item tells us, syntactically that “homosexuality … was … struck down … in the U.S. in 2003.” How sad: I thought we were making progress. In every case, I think I know what was meant, but I shouldn’t have to be filling in for the writers or editor.
Sterling Giles, Boston
Since you invite a response from the author, who also happens to be the editor, here goes. On the question of relevance, following a recurring SNL gag, my reaction is: Really? You mean it really has to be that exclusively penis-to-penis or vagina-to-vagina contact every time for something to qualify? But why? On the two often-confused words, American Heritage does allow the following for “flaunt”: “To show contempt for; scorn,” noting the “usage problem” with this definition. I am aware of this problem and have corrected it more than once in my years as an editor. Call it a deeply recursive word play if you want, but since the item was about exhibitionism, taking advantage of this pun in the headline was a no-brainer. On your last point, I’m always suspicious when I see a lot of ellipses in a quotation, so here’s the full sentence: “Under their regime homosexuality was illegal for hundreds of years and was only struck down once and for all in the U.S. in 2003.” Okay, ya got me on that one. I doubt that many readers had any trouble figuring out what I meant, but clearly there’s a missing noun in there. Finally, I’m glad to know that you read and usually enjoy this column.
The Work Goes On
To the Editor:
I was pleased and surprised to find your article “Unearthing the ‘Knights of the Clock’” in the May-June issue. It is gratifying to me that someone with your skill and access has followed through on my inquiry; and of course I found the information in your article interesting indeed. Thank you for doing this. One would like to know more about people like Merton L. Bird. There must be many anonymous heroes like him.
Richard Lottridge, Sierra Madre, CA