'walden' by henry david thoreau

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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 (nine years ago) link

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 (nine years ago) link

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 (nine years ago) link

what exactly is supposed to be embarrassing about it?

j., Wednesday, 3 November 2010 07:40 (nine years ago) link

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 (nine years ago) link

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

prettylikealaindelon, Wednesday, 3 November 2010 11:53 (nine years ago) link

also - 'civil disobedience is the best shit ever'

prettylikealaindelon, Wednesday, 3 November 2010 11:53 (nine years ago) link

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 (nine years ago) link

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 (nine years ago) link

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 (nine years ago) link

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 (nine years ago) link

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 (nine years ago) link

eighteen
fucking
forty-nine

schlomo replay (acoleuthic), Saturday, 11 December 2010 18:57 (nine years ago) link

(was the number)

flopson, Saturday, 11 December 2010 22:26 (nine years ago) link

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 (eight years ago) link

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 (eight years ago) link

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 (eight years ago) link

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 (eight years ago) link

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 (eight years ago) link

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 (eight years ago) link

I completely agree J.D.

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

i started reading this at 25, also dostoyevsky

thomp, Saturday, 28 April 2012 10:41 (eight years ago) link

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 (eight years ago) link

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 (six years ago) link

people are sneery orthodox cunts yo

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

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 (six years ago) link

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 (six years ago) link

*snickering, even.

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

this summer i swum in walden pond!

mustread guy (schlump), Saturday, 18 January 2014 21:45 (six years ago) link

but please no, continue

mustread guy (schlump), Saturday, 18 January 2014 21:45 (six years ago) link

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 (five years ago) link

Loved this article

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

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 (five years ago) link

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

The comments upthread re: "children seem entirely alien to his mindset" is a very funny thing to say about a schoolteacher! It seems from most accounts he was great with kids, though not having any of his own.

I was reading his journals recently (volume V of the 1906 edition, available for free online) and came across this passage, from the Autobiography of Moncure Daniel Conway, which was reproduced in a footnote under HDT's journal entry for Sunday, August 7, 1853:

I recall an occasion when little Edward Emerson, carrying a basket of ripe huckleberries, had a fall and spilt them all. Great was his distress, and our offers of berries could not console him for the loss of those gathered by himself. But Thoreau came, put his arm around the troubled child, and explained to him that if the crop of huckleberries was to continue it was necessary that some should be scattered. Nature had provided that little boys should now and then stumble and sow the berries. We shall have a grand lot of bushes and berries in this spot, and we shall owe them to you. Edward began to smile.

handsome boy modelling software (bernard snowy), Wednesday, 2 September 2020 14:25 (one month ago) link

So basically he told a whopping lie, but it was effective and therefore admirable.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Wednesday, 2 September 2020 18:06 (one month ago) link

You could say that; or you could say that Thoreau had well absorbed Emerson's teachings (Ralph Waldo, not little Edward) about compensation.

Men suffer all their life long, under the foolish superstition that they can be cheated. But it is as impossible for a man to be cheated by any one but himself, as for a thing to be and not to be at the same time. There is a third silent party to all our bargains. The nature and soul of things takes on itself the guaranty of the fulfilment of every contract, so that honest service cannot come to loss. If you serve an ungrateful master, serve him the more. Put God in your debt. Every stroke shall be repaid. The longer the payment is withholden, the better for you; for compound interest on compound interest is the rate and usage of this exchequer.

handsome boy modelling software (bernard snowy), Wednesday, 2 September 2020 19:33 (one month ago) link


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