Thoreau, Henry David. Walden or, Life in the Woods. New York: Signet Classic, 1980.
There are several words that come to mind when I think of Thoreau and his work, Walden. Right up front I have to say Walden is important, even necessary. Every student needs to read it at least once in his or her academic career, whether it be high school, college or as a postgraduate. As I said it’s important. But, there are other words that bubble to the surface as I read: didactic, preachy, bloviate. If Thoreau had kept his commentary restricted to his personal efforts to live a simple life and not generalized all of mankind it would have been a less frustrating read. At least for me. Case in point, Walden borrows an axe from a neighbor to build his house. He feels the need to point out “The owner of the axe, as he released his hold on it, said that it was the apple of his eye; but I returned it sharper than I received it” (p 32). His implication is, despite what the man said Thoreau cared for the instrument better than the owner. Couldn’t he just been grateful for borrowing the damned axe? As a former islander who lived on very little I know the importance of living simply. I just wish the reminder didn’t come as such a lecture.
As an aside, when Mailer read Walden he wasn’t impressed.
Reason read: Massachusetts became a state in February.
Author fact: Thoreau is probably better known for his work, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.
Book trivia: My copy of Walden included an afterword by Perry Miller and a revised and updated bibliography.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Walk Right In” (p 250).