Walden: The Story of a Literary Jerk-Face

Introduction

As a “classic,” Walden gets talked about a lot. Particularly if you’re someone who’s interested in nature and our relationship with nature. In those circles, Walden is hailed as kind of a holy grail of nature writing.

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Walden Pond

Review

As someone who typically enjoys the classics and considers herself fairly nature-minded, I expected to really love Walden. I didn’t. I hated it and ended up giving up on it. Something that everyone who talks about Walden forgets to mention is the fact that Thoreau is an enormous asshole.

Thoreau is quoted all the freaking time and toted as a genius — which, maybe he is — but I couldn’t stand reading the guy’s work. He makes a lot of good points about the importance of nature and the beauty of being able to surrender to an existence more closely tied with nature, but he does so in such a way that I would up hating the guy. Everything he says is oozing his holier-than-thou attitude, despite the fact that he wasn’t as disconnected from the detrimental modern world as he would like us to think. After all, he was squatting on a friend’s property, less than a mile from the nearest town, and people would visit and bring him food all the time.

But the way he tells it, you’d think he was off in the deep wilderness, relying on his own wits and ingenuity to survive, pondering thoughts so deep they’d never been had before. Psh.

What really did the book in for me was his bit on the importance of reading classic literature. I agree that it’s important to read literature that is challenging, but I do not think that all other literature is trash! God forbid you read something that’s not so horrendously hard you think your brain is going to fall out of your nose. How dare you read a translated work instead of plodding through the work in its original language, which hasn’t been spoken for centuries! Don’t even think about picking something up that was written in the past century — unless, of course, it’s something written by Thoreau.

Screw that.

Pass the sci-fi.

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