Back when I was a wee lad, oh so many years ago, the nearest library was a mile away from my home, at the corner of Burt Road and Finkell Street in Detroit. In my child’s mind it was a vast stone building gleaming white as the heart of a hero, graced with wrought iron trim as black as a villains soul. A visit, years later, when that branch had long since closed, the image that child carried paled somewhat in the visage of a 50s style cinder-block shell, boarded up and graffitied, forlorn on the corner of a dying block of houses in a city all but dead.
But at 12, it was a magnificent place. There were stories contained within those walls, words that could transport you from the motherless gray of a frightening neighborhood, powerless against the exigencies of life, the bullies and the fearsome teachers at school, to places far away, where the sun always shone, where life was lived and loved.
There were two types of library cards back then; adult and child. Being under the tender age of 16, I had the kid card, which gave me access to all the kid stuff but kept me out of that part of the library where all the really good stuff was. I can remember walking there, my red wagon in tow, pushing through those great doors into the silent gloom of words. The kid section was small and near the front of the building. I can remember browsing the shelves, surreptitiously observing the “old” people sitting on the adult side reading, and wishing with all my young heart that I could browse the shelves they had so easily at their beck and call.
I would check out 10 or 12 books, take them home, read them, bring them back. This would go on day after day that summer I was 10. The librarian, a woman I couldn’t now, after all these years, describe for you, would watch this parade with a half smile of wonderment curling her lips. I was about the only kid that ever came into that place. I don’t remember ever encountering another of my age there.
One day, after returning a dozen books I had checked out the day before, she asked me if I had actually read all those books. I seem to remember she even asked me questions about them, to determine if I really had, indeed, read them. My answers must have been satisfactory for she reached beneath the counter, brought forth a form, filled it out herself, and issued me an adult card.
My world expanded exponentially.
I ate those shelves alive. Thurber, Stienbeck, Heminway, Faulkner, Hawthorne and Twain, they all were there, opening worlds beyond my wildest imagination. Twain captured my heart; Tom, Huck, the Connecticut Yankee. Oh for a life on a raft on the Mississippi.
But what of Pap, a demon now still in my mind. So much a part of Huck never told. Until now. Jon Clinch has filled in the gaps, both for the child who once visited the library, red wagon in tow, and the adult, who always wondered.
I have, as a member of Backspace, the greatest writers forum on the Internet, been privileged to read parts of Finn, this new book from Jon Clinch. Do you lust after beautifully executed language? Do you long for a story so rich in detail that it makes your heart swell? I wish I could say I’ve read it all, but what little I’ve read has enchanted me. And the rest will come soon enough as I have already ordered Finn from my local book store.
Check out the site here. And buy the book when it comes out. You won’t be sorry. Trust me.