Monday, July 23, 2001

Concord and Merrimack

A few weeks ago, the Boston Globe ran an article on Henry David Thoreau, the famous recluse/philosopher who wrote Walden. The article was about how people misunderstood Thoreau's writings. I read articles like this, and it makes me want to hole up in a library for a week reading Thoreau. What is there to misunderstand? What was his main message?

So over the past few nights, I've dipped into A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. This was his first published book (1849). I have one of those 'handsome home-library three-volume set' of Thoreau's work from the Book-of-the-Month Club: Walden, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, and The Maine Woods.

The Boston Globe article said that A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers is fairly impenetrable. The foreword to my edition states that reading this from cover to cover would be a tough diet.

I would somewhat agree with both of these. He spends a good portion of the book ranting. He goes from a detailed look at the specific biology on these rivers, to a discourse on various religions. Sprinkled throughout are pithy wisdoms ("He who resorts to the easy novel, because he is languid, does no better than if he took a nap."). This was a man who thought, and then wrote it down.

Every weekday, I go over the Concord River, on Route 3. It's a short bridge. Now I find myself looking down the river, as I pass by. It is so peaceful. And Thoreau canoed past this spot once.

I don't necessarily plan to read all of this book, but I will be dipping into it. I need something to think about when I go over that brief bridge.

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