At various stages in my life, I have been a serious reader. I have also gone long stretches (years, I mean) in which I read nothing outside of work but trash fiction. I simply didn’t have the energy or the motivation. Looking back, I see that lack of energy and motivation toward serious reading as being symptomatic of a more generic dissatisfaction. Needless to say, reading is a category of “doing” that I want to reclaim as I begin to stake out more of my time for myself.
One of my reading stages occurred directly after completing my undergraduate education. It dawned upon me that I had somehow acquired a bachelor’s degree without hardly having touched any “classic” literature. That stunned me. And it really pissed me off. What the hell had I been doing? What is an education nowadays, anyway? That is a subject I will revisit many times, I am sure. Meantime, there I was, quite capable of rattling off a few dozen authors’ names and book titles that I knew I should have read, but hadn’t. So I set about reading them.
One of the first pieces of real literature I picked up was Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. I picked up a cheap, used paperback version (Bantam Classics if I remember correctly), and it became so tattered that I eventually replaced it with a hardbound Modern Library edition. The only reason I held onto the tattered paperbound version was that I had so many underlinings and stars and exclamations and notes written within it that I thought I would want to refer back to them. I finally let that paperback copy go when I went through one of my several book purges. I have since purged my collection to a very, very small shelf of books. And that Modern Library edition of Walden survived every cut. If I purge the collection down to one volume…well, you can guess which one that would be. So the first of what I hope will be many book treatments here will feature this, my favorite piece of classic literature.
I will not attempt to synopsize, analyze, or criticize Walden. The truth is, people love it or hate it. The people who love it do so for different reasons, with some focusing on Thoreau’s naturalism, some on his individualism, some on his social criticism, and some on his minimalism. There are probably a few more “isms” one could apply. They all add up to a basic nonconformism. And those who hate him, I suspect, do so because they are at heart conformists. So there’s your gauntlet. You cannot NOT pick it up, since your very own paperback version, which I hope you will tatter to shreds (shred to tatters?), can be purchased for 99 cents here:
How is this possible? I wondered too. The publisher is “Wisehouse.” Their website, which is about as Mickey Mouse as my own (Powered by WordPress!), lists dozens of classic titles. It is run by a Dr. Sam Vaseghi, an Iranian poet living in exile. I’ve been doing a little bit of research on him and may follow up with something more substantial. Can it be possible he is guilty of “Do-Gooding?” Tut tut. Thoreau would not approve. But I certainly do.
UPDATE: I just today (20 Jan 2017) looked back at this post, and I see the price has jumped to $8.99 rather than 99 cents. Was the previous price a glitch? A Christmas special? I have no idea. Maybe it will come back around. Even at this more understandable price, I cannot recommend Walden highly enough. Feed your inner nonconformist.