Thoreau goes out in the woods to suck out the marrow of life and live simply. He ends up with a long ass treatise about life, the universe and everything if you are inclined to think that way. If not, this is a long ass slog from a guy sitting in the woods talking about the woods and stuff.
What I liked
Say anything you like about Thoreau, but the man has a way with words. Even if this book was rewritten around twenty times, he got it the way he wanted it, by gum. As much of early American lit, these words demand to be spoken aloud, to be shared with someone else.
As in the language itself, Mr. Thoreau paints pictures of everything he talks about in deep detail. When it works, the object is seamlessly integrated into the narrative. Simple objects come to life under the shaping of this master wordsmith and are used to great effect in whatever point he is happening to make.
Nearly everything in this book has a point. The descriptions lead to a thought that further leads to a grand idea about the human condition. Every point leads back to the central theme of simplification of the human mind, body and spirit.
What I didn't like
Mr. Thoreau’s orations can just go on forever. Sure, he is painting a brilliant landscape, but the mind gets tired after so much extended effort for such simple points. Brevity and an editor’s hand could have cut some of these three page paragraphs down to size.
While I am sure that Mr. Thoreau feels he “dumbed down” this narrative as much as he could, his references and long-winded rants are anything but simple. References to ancient Greek and Roman literature were common to prove one scholarly at the time, but go against the very message Thoreau conveying. One reels at the hilarity of the idea that there may be a day where common readers cannot understand Mr. Thoreau’s references because their lives have mirrored his own simplicity.
Who would like this
English majors. Hipsters looking to have something to hold to make themselves look less cool and therefore more cool? I don’t get how that ever works. Hippies and their communes, maybe, with a humanitarian need to get back to nature and the like. Anyway, intellectuals and anyone who likes words a whole lot will dig the hell out of this book, but your average reader looking for plot can stick to the “memorable quotes” page for this book and get the gist of the heavier
Why was it banned?
From the small amount of research I have done, Walden has never been banned to any degree. As a near perfect example of American literature clutching to the idea that new thought can be found in their new wilderness, this book mirrors the English poshness while expositing revolutionary ideas that in modern times seem quaint and old fashioned.