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Henry David Thoreau: A Life

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Henry David Thoreau: A Life.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Laura Dassow Walls(Author)

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Walden. Yesterday I came here to live. That entry from the journal of Henry David Thoreau, and the intellectual journey it began, would by themselves be enough to place Thoreau in the American pantheon. His attempt to "live deliberately" in a small woods at the edge of his hometown of Concord has been a touchstone for individualists and seekers since the publication of Walden in 1854. But there was much more to Thoreau than his brief experiment in living at Walden Pond. A member of the vibrant intellectual circle centered on his neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson, he was also an ardent naturalist, a manual laborer and inventor, a radical political activist, and more. Many books have taken up various aspects of Thoreau's character and achievements, but, as Laura Dassow Walls writes, "Thoreau has never been captured between covers; he was too quixotic, mischievous, many-sided." Two hundred years after his birth, and two generations after the last full-scale biography, Walls restores Henry David Thoreau to us in all his profound, inspiring complexity. Walls traces the full arc of Thoreau's life, from his early days in the intellectual hothouse of Concord, when the American experiment still felt fresh and precarious, and "America was a family affair, earned by one generation and about to pass to the next." By the time he died in 1862, at only forty-four years of age, Thoreau had witnessed the transformation of his world from a community of farmers and artisans into a bustling, interconnected commercial nation. What did that portend for the contemplative individual and abundant, wild nature that Thoreau celebrated? Drawing on Thoreau's copious writings, published and unpublished, Walls presents a Thoreau vigorously alive in all his quirks and contradictions: the young man shattered by the sudden death of his brother; the ambitious Harvard College student; the ecstatic visionary who closed Walden with an account of the regenerative power of the Cosmos. We meet the man whose belief in human freedom and the value of labor made him an uncompromising abolitionist; the solitary walker who found society in nature, but also found his own nature in the society of which he was a deeply interwoven part. And, running through it all, Thoreau the passionate naturalist, who, long before the age of environmentalism, saw tragedy for future generations in the human heedlessness around him. "The Thoreau I sought was not in any book, so I wrote this one," says Walls. The result is a Thoreau unlike any seen since he walked the streets of Concord, a Thoreau for our time and all time.

"Laura Dassow Walls has written a grand, big-hearted biography, as compulsively readable as a great nineteenth century novel, chock-full of new and fascinating detail about Thoreau, his family, his friends, and his town. Walls's magnificent--landmark--achievement is the best all around biography of Thoreau ever written. It not only brings Thoreau vividly back to life, it will fundamentally change how we see him. We will hear no more about the 'hermit of Walden Pond.' Walls has given us a new socially engaged Thoreau for a new era, a freedom fighter for John Brown and America, and a necessary prophet and spokesman for Concord Mass. and Planet Earth."--Robert D. Richardson, author of Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind"I've always been slightly skeptical of biography doorstops. . . . I read the book in two sittings. It will not be used as a doorstop--ever. . . . Walls, scouring his published and unpublished writings, gives her readers hundreds of these fleeting chances to catch sight of a beautifully untamed but distinctly American existence. . . . Walls comes as close as any biographer has to giving us the wild Thoreau--disorienting and bewildering." --John Kaag "Chronicle of Higher Education ""Superb. . . . Exuberant. . . . Walls paints a moving portrait of a brilliant, complex man." --Fen Montaigne "New York Times ""As Lauren Dassow Walls makes clear in her excellent Henry David Thoreau: A Life, he was a man of obsessively high principles, self-contained, a stickler for details who insisted on his own way of seeing the world, however quirky. . . . Walls earns her keep, digging into Thoreau's aphoristic letters and journals, finding acute reflections by his contemporaries, and drawing a wonderfully brisk and satisfying portrait. . ." --Jay Parini "Times Literary Supplement ""This new biography is the masterpiece that the gadfly of youthful America deserves. I have been reading Henry David Thoreau and reading about him for 40 years; I've written a book about him myself. Yet often I responded to Laura Dassow Walls's compelling narrative with mutterings such as 'I never knew that' and 'I hadn't thought of it that way.' I found myself caught up in these New England lives all over again. . . . On a foundation of rigorous scholarship, Walls resurrects Thoreau's life with a novelist's sympathy and pacing."--Michael Sims "Washington Post ""Beautifully written, this is a substantial volume in which every page feels essential. You won't want to put it down."--Dianne Timblin "American Scientist ""Not only does the biographer capture the breadth and depth of Thoreau's relations and work, she leaves us tantalized, wanting more."--Barbara Lloyd McMichael "Seattle Times ""Splendid . . . offers a multifaceted view of the many contradictions of his personality."--Robert Pogue Harrison "New York Review of Books "

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Book details

  • PDF | 640 pages
  • Laura Dassow Walls(Author)
  • University of Chicago Press (4 July 2017)
  • English
  • 10
  • Biography

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Review Text

  • By Guest on 7 September 2017

    This reveals a Thoreau few other biographers succeeded in recognising: a man of nature, a lively debater and one of Concord town's most loved citizens. A masterpiece of modern biography.


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