Hard to believe this is the last chapter in our little experiment in fictional cloning! Fictional cloning is, as always, the reproduction of something that has never existed be-fore, such as Hayao Miyazaki
's animated film version of Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
or someone as brilliant as Carl Wilson tackling the enigma of Celine Dion's popularity and incidentally usurping many, if not most, of our assumptions about aesthetics. (Whoops! That one
already exists. And it's better than we could have imagined.)
This being Independence Day here in the States, we thought it was our patriotic duty to choose for our experiment one of the finest American novels of all time and a suitable album by a US band to accompany it. We honestly wanted that album to be the Feelies' The Good Earth, a personal favorite and especially timely in light of the Feelies' free show with Sonic Youth in New York today. But we couldn't get our well-oiled Fictorationalizationifier Machine to combine it with the right writer, who we feel should probably be Philip Roth (and not Pearl S. Buck, our first assumption). We love Moby-Dick, and we guess that Ishmael would be an extraordinarily fun music critic, but his in-terests seem either fairly catholic or very specifically focused on whaling, and which left us with either too many options or a choice between the works of The Decemberists or Mastodon, and neither seemed precisely right for this experiment. Finally, we struck upon the right book and the right album for the book, both of which took us by surprise. We love them both and were pleased by how well they took to each other. And they're both as uniquely American as, well, not apple pie, but pie, at least.
÷ ÷ ÷
From Mark Twain's Key Lime Pie:
I reckon I warn't spectin' much out of them funny-lookin' musicshens. They all had smart-alecky looks on their faces and didn't appear hardly touched by the river. I thought about how yonder in the thicket Jim and the raft were waitin' to shove off, but here I'd wanted to come ashore and see about the racket.
The one with the bass fiddle was reading a book while the others were carrying on about something to do with a key. I figured maybe the regular fiddle player with all the long hair thought she needed a different key than the others, and said to myself, "They stole a chest from some folks and now they can't unlock it." Then one of them with a guitar, the one who looked most smart-alecky of all, he noticed me and said:
"Ho there, little man. What you know?"
"I heard music," says I, "or somethin' like music; but I ain't tryin' to get in the mid-dle of any sivilized talk."
"Well, we're not a-fightin' 'bout anything important," he says. "We're just talkin' 'bout how to play these songs we wrote. Tell you what: we'll play 'em for you; and you can say if you like 'em in that order."
Now this notion filled me with powerful fear. I knew any musicshens with such looks on their faces like they thought the whole world was a funny joke and they were in on it but most folks were not ? I knew people like that were trouble. And the songs that people like that played couldn't be nothing but rotten trouble. I figured I could run and be at the raft afore they'd know what to do about it. And then I'd be finished with this whole mess. But they had their own counsel, and before I could do anything, the one beatin' on the pots and pans was a-saying, "1-2-3-4," all slow and measured out, like he was making sure they still came in that order.
Then they started playing; and the fiddle and mandolin sang while the pots-an-pans man knocked out a steady beat like the waves on the river; and almost before I could catch my breath, they was done.
The smart-aleckiest one who'd spoken to me said:
"That's just the openin' theme, little man. Listen to this." And he strummed on his guitar some notes and the bass fiddle man and pots-an-pans man came in right when he started singing. And I don't remember much of what he sang, 'cept it was all about somethin' terrible a-coming; and it was written from the words of my heart. And the next song left me as astonished, all about an old man named Raygin and how lost he was. I remember how in the song the old man was thinking, "buildings collapse in slow motion; and trains collide: everything is fine," and I thought about Tom Sawyer for some reason, playing at train robbery while my pa was all that time planning to lock me in that awful shack and get at my money. And then the next song, about winning a for-tune in the lottery, well, I could-a written that song myself. That man who was singing ? who wasn't so smart-alecky after all, I thought, but just plain smart ? that man sang:
When I win the lottery,
the righteous will shake their heads and say,
"If God is good, then He surely works in mysterious ways."
And it was just as plain as day that they were talkin' about the way I reckon a lot of people back home felt about me; and even the way they felt about Jim. And I thought about when I decided that I'd rather go to hell and steal Jim out of slavery once more; and I thought about my pa, dead these three years and part of the river now; and I thought about Tom's playing a game in promising to help me free Jim even though he'd already knowed that Jim was free; and all the time that Jim spent in chains, a-feared for his life and me his only friend in the world; and the river itself streaked black an' pale in the afternoon light; and the men we met on the river havin' no kindness to them, kind-ness bein' harder than pretendin' to be kind; and it warn't just men on the river who was like that but men in all the towns I've gone. And I hoped that the man in that song, the man who will win the lottery and make things right, I hope he wins it so that just once there'd be someone with kindness who comes up winner in the whole d___ sivilized world. And the musicshens was singing a new song now:
Come on blackness, let me breathe you in
'Cause with this clattering and din
I am calling you
I heard that call.
÷ ÷ ÷
There was no personal note in the machine this time. In fact, immediately after we spliced these two works of art together, the machine quit and has refused to restart, even when we've attempted such scientific fixes as unplugging and replugging it and giving it a swift whomp on the side. So this is it; the rest is silence.
We're not much given to silence, though. We decided that Huck deserves his own mix, just as much as Humbert Humbert, The Judge, Oedipa Maas, and Hazel Motes did, if not more, and we took it upon ourselves to create one here. He may or may not like it, but we do, and it's as American as baseball, an unwillingness to submit to introspection, and key lime pie. So here's hoping that the readers from the USA enjoy this collection of songs on their 4th of July holiday, and our friends in Canada and around the world have a pretty swell day themselves.
This has been fun! Now go buy my book. You wouldn't believe how much we spend on tech support, because mad scientists may be crazy, but they don't come cheap.