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Walden

21 Jul 2015

Walden is yet another reminder that not all classics are good. I have a suspicion that those who pontificate on Walden only read the first couple and maybe the last chapter. There are some interesting bits in the chapter titled "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For" and again a few in the conclusion. However, the majority of the book is one of the most boring things I have ever subjected myself to.

Thoreau writes at length about where and when he saw a particular bird show up during the fall and spring. If you actually read this whole thing, every word, I dare you to say that less than 90% of it is extremely repetative and boring.

In the substitantive parts, Thoreau often contradicts himself and comes across as whining. I get why people like it if they are only focusing on the quoteable parts that they agree with. Take for instance some of these quotes:

for a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Those services which the community will most readily pay for, it is most disagreeable to render.

The prophets are employed in excusing the ways of men.

Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!

There are a few more that I marked but you get the idea. There are certainly some pithy sayings that people could hold on to and form their lives around. If one does this then they must regard the entire work of Walden as a masterpiece. But, I tell you, it is mostly a waste of time.

I also read Civil Disobedience which I found to be much more palatable, this might be because it had a sense of focus and it was significanly shorter. The same underlying moral philosophy can be found there as well, including the self contradiction.

This book is only okay and I am now happy it is off my list of things that I just have to read.


Category: book