Summer 2002 • Vol. XXIV No. 3/4 Nonfiction |

Deadpan Huck, Or, What’s Funny about Interpretation

  "I am never serious [said K.], and therefore I have to make jokes do duty for both jest and earnest. But I was arrested in earnest." —Franz Kafka deleted fragment from The Trial It is a truth universally acknowledged that Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is funny. That's one of the few points of consensus, amidst all controversies over its meaning. But what's funny about the book? We may ask (as many critics have) if we should laugh at certain jokes, but that's a different, prescriptive order of inquiry. Whether we should or shouldn't, the fact is we cannot help but laugh at Huck's adventures, and the question is why. A simple question, and it warrants a simple answer. What's finny about Huckleberry Finn is that it's a humorous story. But then again, what's humorous? Here's the way Twain himself defined the term, in a late essay entitled "How to Tell a Story": The humorous story is American, the comic story is English. … The humorous story bubbles ge

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The Good-Bye

By Meg Tyler

  "I am never serious [said K.], and therefore I have to make jokes do duty for both jest and earnest. But I was arrested in earnest." —Franz Kafka deleted […]

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