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Pond Scum? Kathryn Schulz on Thoreau

In this week’s New Yorker:

‘Walden is less a cornerstone work of environmental literature than the original cabin porn: a fantasy about rustic life divorced from the reality of living in the woods, and, especially, a fantasy about escaping the entanglements and responsibilities of living among other people.’

Why, given his hypocrisy, sanctimony, and misanthropy, has Thoreau been so cherished?

1 Comment

  1. Walden was conceived of and executed by Thoreau as what he called “an experiment.” The experiment was how one could experience “the wild” without having to move to some remote location. His thesis was that one should take the time and occasion to experience nature firsthand and not spend all one’s time getting and spending. One didn’t have to be independently wealthy or move to some faraway place to do so. Living at the cabin took up two years and two days of his life, during which time–as documented in Walden–he entertained a number of visitors and went into town and to Emerson’s home, among other places, so he was indeed entangled among others. Before this, he helped his father build a house. Before and after this time, he worked in his family’s pencil and graphite business, including inventing and refining equipment to help make the business more efficient so he was very much a man of the world. Schultz misses the humor, joy and satire in Walden, and seems relatively irony-proof in her condemnations. Read what she has to say, but then read Walden with an open mind.

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