Mark twain

The slave’s story: James, by Percival Everett, reviewed

Rereading The Adventures of Huckle-berry Finn can be a saddening experience. It’s not just the oft-repeated n-word that jolts, then pains, then twinges; it’s the ‘no sah’, ‘I’s agwyne to’ locutions of Huck’s companion, the runaway slave Jim. In retelling the celebrated adventure story in Jim’s own voice, Percival Everett upends the convention. James and his fellow slaves can speak perfectly good English between themselves. It’s only when white folks are around that they perform blackness. Whether two slaves out of the earshot of whites would discuss if a situation represents ‘an example of proleptic irony or dramatic irony’ is another matter. Huck Finn is one of the great voices

The pleasures – and perils – of getting on your bike

Jody Rosen lives and cycles in Brooklyn, which makes him what the Mexican essayist Julio Torri calls ‘a suicide apprentice’. He has been ‘rear-ended’ and ‘doored’ several times. He quotes an unnamed cyclist who likens the click of a car door being opened to the sound of a gun being cocked. ‘Get a bicycle,’ said Mark Twain. `You will not regret it, if you live.’ This rangy, digressive book contains just about the right amount of bicycle history and mechanics for the unobsessed. Rosen is not a bicycle fetishist. He can ‘barely patch an inner tube’, though he does enjoy the ticking-clock simplicity of the shiny contraptions which carry the

Madcap escapades: The All True Adventures (and Rare Education) of the Daredevil Daniel Bones, by Owen Booth, reviewed

The narrative of an adolescent travelling by water with an older companion, undergoing trials and ordeals, encountering scoundrels and villains, with glimpses of society from high to low as they drift pass: it doesn’t take long before the flavour of this picaresque novel starts to seem hauntingly familiar. In his mid-teens towards the end of the 19th century, Dan, like Huckleberry Finn, escapes from a drunken father, and, though his journey is down the waterways of Europe rather than the Mississippi, the way he silently registers the corruption he sees all around him is deeply reminiscent of his literary forebear. His companion, the charming cad Captain Clarke B, could equally