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The Thoreau You Don't Know: The Father of Nature Writers on the Importance of Cities, Finance, and Fooling Around

Robert Sullivan.
Publisher Harper Perennial  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 8 x 5.3 x 0.85 inches
ISBN 9780061710322
Pages/Publication Date 355/2009
Daedalus Item Code 61662
This item is not available.
(A New York Times Editors' Choice) Many readers think they know Henry David Thoreau, imagining the solitary curmudgeon with the shack out in the woods. But in this delightfully engaging book, Robert Sullivan gives us a gregarious adventurer, the guy who liked to go camping with friends (even if they sometimes accidentally burned the woods down). Sullivan's Thoreau is no lonely eccentric but a man who danced and sang, who worked throughout his short life at the family pencil-making business, who moved into his parents' house after leaving Walden Pond and always paid rent to his father.

"A mischievous reporter on the universe, Sullivan has found beauty in a notorious swamp in The Meadowlands and wisdom in an alley in Rats. In his latest slyly philosophical inquiry, he endeavors to free Henry David Thoreau from his calcified reputation as a cantankerous hermit and nature worshipper. Sounding like your favorite teacher who manages to make history fun and relevant, Sullivan vibrantly portrays the sage of Walden as a geeky, curious, compassionate fellow of high intelligence and deep feelings who loved company, music, and long walks. An exceptional writer mad for puns, Thoreau was also a bold social critic and—the crux of Sullivan's stimulating argument—a brilliant, tongue-in-cheek humorist. Sullivan, himself plenty saucy, also elucidates Thoreau's radical focus on 'man's interaction with nature.' In command of a great diversity of fascinating material, Sullivan succinctly illuminates the striking parallels between Thoreau's time and ours—foreclosures, lost jobs, and rapid technological change. Thoreau remains vital and valuable because of his acute observations, wit, and lyricism and his recognition that the 'force of life is everywhere,' a perception even more essential now that the consequences of the societal choices Thoreau prophetically critiqued have reached staggering proportions."—Booklist (starred review)

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