Twain spent seven years writing HUCKLEBERRY FINN--the book Hemingway claimed is the basis for all American fiction. The story of Huck's and Jim's quest for freedom on a raft on the Mississippi provides a panoramic view of Southern society, which Twain saw as beset by greed, violence, and coldhearted brutality in the guise of virtue. At the end of the book, Huck definitively abandons the hypocrisy and cant on which he has been raised when he makes the shocking decision to go to hell rather than betray his friend Jim and send him back to slavery. The book has been banned from time to time, beginning with its publication in 1885, when it was deemed too subversive for children, until the late 20th century when, despite its compassionate attitude toward blacks and is violent denunciation of slavery, it has been branded racist because of Twain's use of dialect and "offensive" language. In addition to its message of tolerance and understanding, HUCKLEBERRY FINN continues to be read, talked about, and loved by readers of all ages because it's a cracking good coming-of-age story full of vivid characters and hilarious events --and because Twain's relentlessly clear-eyed angle of vision sees beneath the foibles and absurdities of humanity to the common ground that we all share.