'walden' by henry david thoreau

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

A huge influence on American thinking/culture, both good (60's counter culture) and bad (survivalism, Timothy McVeigh). Some very profound passages but also theres some pomposity (as in the contemplative life isnt for everyone just ME) and snobbery ("Farmers are respectable and interesting to me in proportion as they are poor-poor farmers.").

From the beginning theres a barely suppressed rage at the status quo and the useless accessories of modern living thats powerful and err, punk rock even. Also the knowledge that all this beauty he sees on the lake will be wiped out soon is quite touching. To Americans, is this a standard book that you have read at an impressionable age and still love? Does anyone find it slightly embarrassing in later years?

decent skinsmanship (Michael B), Wednesday, 3 November 2010 00:35 (eight years ago) Permalink

I adore this book, but haven't looked at it in a decade

honkin' on joey kramer (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Wednesday, 3 November 2010 00:55 (eight years ago) Permalink

what is the 'contemplative life isnt for everyone' part?

ive only read exceprts of this but civil disobedience is the best shit ever

i got her... colostomy bag (samosa gibreel), Wednesday, 3 November 2010 00:59 (eight years ago) Permalink

what exactly is supposed to be embarrassing about it?

j., Wednesday, 3 November 2010 07:40 (eight years ago) Permalink

this is such a dope line (about his intention to address those 'who are said to live in new england'):

'something about your condition, especially your outward condition or circumstances in this world, in this town, what it is, whether it is necessary that it be as bad as it is'

j., Wednesday, 3 November 2010 08:09 (eight years ago) Permalink

I don't really understand what's so bad about Timothy McVeigh

prettylikealaindelon, Wednesday, 3 November 2010 11:53 (eight years ago) Permalink

also - 'civil disobedience is the best shit ever'

prettylikealaindelon, Wednesday, 3 November 2010 11:53 (eight years ago) Permalink

I read Walden at age 16, which was definitely the right time for me to read it. At that age Thoreau's faults were not apparent to me, and I wholeheartedly embraced his virtues, most prominently his urge toward simplicity and disdain for piling up wealth. I still embrace those ideas. He was spot on and using this approach has made me a happier person.

His faults are his priggishness and rather smug conviction of his superiority to his neighbors. He also has a fairly glib style that wears on me as an adult. He never seems to have had a successful love affair, and children seem entirely alien to his mindset. So, I conclude that he was never quite properly socialized. When I try to reread Walden, these aspects dissuade me from continuing.

Still, I appreciate what he did for me. Better this book as an adolescent icon than Catcher in the Rye, is what I say. A thousand times better.

Aimless, Wednesday, 3 November 2010 17:39 (eight years ago) Permalink

children seem entirely alien to his mindset.

theres a part where he is discussing his ethos with the Irishman, John Fields and never takes into consideration how a simpler lifestyle is compatible with raising five children. i dont want to come across as if i hate this book, far from it. it does strike me as a kind of book that would be an adolescent icon such as 'catcher in the rye'.

decent skinsmanship (Michael B), Wednesday, 3 November 2010 18:32 (eight years ago) Permalink

look at what he does with his separation from society, though. he… builds a house, farms, reads books, looks at nature, and writes a book. as much as they would like to be rebellious or to make their wasted hours (experienced mainly in school or under the authority of adults) meaningful in some way, i don't think the idea of doing so by performing meaningful work and attentively practicing the art of living is exactly their thing.

j., Wednesday, 3 November 2010 19:04 (eight years ago) Permalink

yeah, j. at its crudest, most basic level, Walden appeals to the high schooler's fantasy to move out of the parents' house asap. (If you squat on a piece of land, borrow an axe, and sit on a pumpkin, it wouldn't take very much money, kids!) Luckily, it has more depth to its appeal than just that.

Aimless, Wednesday, 3 November 2010 19:26 (eight years ago) Permalink

one month passes...

civil disobedience is the best shit ever

― i got her... colostomy bag (samosa gibreel), Wednesday, 3 November 2010 00:59 (1 month ago)

schlomo replay (acoleuthic), Saturday, 11 December 2010 18:57 (eight years ago) Permalink

eighteen
fucking
forty-nine

schlomo replay (acoleuthic), Saturday, 11 December 2010 18:57 (eight years ago) Permalink

(was the number)

flopson, Saturday, 11 December 2010 22:26 (eight years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

Walden Woods video game will recreate the world of Thoreau
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/apr/26/walden-woods-game-world-thoreau

btw didn't i braek ur heart (NickB), Friday, 27 April 2012 11:32 (six years ago) Permalink

kind of funny to see something like walden getting tagged as 'immature' or 'slightly embarrassing in later years' -- i feel like i've heard ppl say similar things about camus, dostoevsky, etc. it's not as if the issues thoreau is concerned with become any less important past your teen years, it's just that most of us become more concerned with living our lives, rather than questioning everything that underlies them. but i cringe at the idea that liking this sort of thing is some sort of immature stage you're supposed to 'get past.'

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Friday, 27 April 2012 17:02 (six years ago) Permalink

a waitress called me very smart because I was reading it in a diner a month ago

puff puff post (uh oh I'm having a fantasy), Friday, 27 April 2012 17:03 (six years ago) Permalink

I was like I dunno it's just a book I'm enjoying it doesn't really make me anything, and she quoted a part of the book at me

puff puff post (uh oh I'm having a fantasy), Friday, 27 April 2012 17:04 (six years ago) Permalink

most of us probably would snicker a little at someone in their '30s or '40s who claimed to have had his life changed by reading 'walden' or 'nausea' or 'the stranger' as an adult, but i don't know, what are we supposed to be moved by when we grow up? john updike?

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Friday, 27 April 2012 17:04 (six years ago) Permalink

and I was like man I couldn't do that see

puff puff post (uh oh I'm having a fantasy), Friday, 27 April 2012 17:05 (six years ago) Permalink

I completely agree J.D.

puff puff post (uh oh I'm having a fantasy), Friday, 27 April 2012 17:08 (six years ago) Permalink

i started reading this at 25, also dostoyevsky

thomp, Saturday, 28 April 2012 10:41 (six years ago) Permalink

i think the Formative Encounter With Great Art thing is really more about having something click about how art exists and works and has agency: but it presents itself as something else

thomp, Saturday, 28 April 2012 10:44 (six years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

most of us probably would snicker a little at someone in their '30s or '40s who claimed to have had his life changed by reading 'walden' or 'nausea' or 'the stranger' as an adult,

walden is a book for grown-ass folks, ain't no teenagers out there counting their pennies and despairing of life

j., Saturday, 18 January 2014 16:53 (four years ago) Permalink

people are sneery orthodox cunts yo

lovely cuddly fluffy dope (imago), Saturday, 18 January 2014 16:56 (four years ago) Permalink

i think the Formative Encounter With Great Art thing is really more about having something click about how art exists and works and has agency: but it presents itself as something else

I know this is a couple years old, but I'd like to read some clarification of this.

Formative Encounter With Great Book is not necessarily Formative Encounter With Great Art, right? Especially with something like Walden (which I don't think I ever finished, to be honest), it doesn't seem to be the literary values in the work that would be potentially life changing.

When I started reading that, actually I thought it was going to be something about the right book at the right time, or the good enough book at the right time. I think there were books that were very important to me at certain points when I was a teenager or in my early 20s that might not have been the best of their type but that gave me what I need at a certain point, or allowed me to take from them what I needed at a certain point. Sometimes I think if you didn't get a certain idea from one author, you would get it from a different one, because you were semi-consciously looking to get that idea to begin with.

If you liked "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" (I think that's the exact title), don't forget "Life Without Principle."

_Rudipherous_, Saturday, 18 January 2014 17:24 (four years ago) Permalink

fwiw i was not endorsing the idea of snicking at someone for having their life changed by a book or reading the 'wrong' book at a certain age, i still love all the books i mentioned.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Saturday, 18 January 2014 21:36 (four years ago) Permalink

*snickering, even.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Saturday, 18 January 2014 21:36 (four years ago) Permalink

this summer i swum in walden pond!

mustread guy (schlump), Saturday, 18 January 2014 21:45 (four years ago) Permalink

but please no, continue

mustread guy (schlump), Saturday, 18 January 2014 21:45 (four years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/19/pond-scum

i kinda love how demented this makes him seem. the doormat thing in this is friggin' hilarious. i laughed out loud. and the shipwreck story is amazing as well. the big thoreau takedown! take that, beardo!

scott seward, Friday, 16 October 2015 03:33 (three years ago) Permalink

Loved this article

you too could be called a 'Star' by the Compliance Unit (jim in glasgow), Friday, 16 October 2015 03:57 (three years ago) Permalink

I bought a cool-looking Thoreau book the other day, Faith in a Seed, which is apparently his last manuscript and seems like nature writing.

Epigraph: "Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders."

jmm, Friday, 16 October 2015 05:02 (three years ago) Permalink

one year passes...
one year passes...

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.