Thursday, January 7, 2016

Book Review: Walking

(Retrieved from Blogjob. Tags: 1860’sHenry David Thoreauhistory of New Englandmindful walking,saunteringwalking for pleasure.)

Title: Walking 
Author: Henry David Thoreau
Date: 1862 / 1995
Publisher (1995 reprint): Penguin
ISBN: 0-14-60-0108-7
Length: 53 pages
Illustrations: (Penguin 1995) none
Quote: "I have met with but one or two persons...who understood the art of Walking."
The trouble with this little book, published in the same year Thoreau died, is that it's too short to suit publishers. Amazon shows nine pages of editions of Walking, including the one with the lovely cover photo linked above, and none of them is the Penguin paperback I physically own. You might in fact get more (pages) for your money by buying one of the editions where Walking has been bound together with Walden and/or Civil Disobedience and/or one of Thoreau's "walking journals." Other editions use the text, or "abridgments" of the text, of Walking as a way to organize glossy pictures of New England. That's not what I have for review, or can write anything about, but since Thoreau no longer needs encouragement from my Fair Trade Books system, you might as well buy as a thrifty New Englander would have bought in Thoreau's day.
However, if you buy it from me, you pay only the one $5 (per package) shipping fee, and this tiny, literally shirt-pocket-size paperback will fit into the same package with at least six more "pocket books."
Anyway. What do readers not already know about Thoreau's Walking? Despite that nineteenth century American penchant for long complex sentences, it was written as an essay and can be read as a lecture. It even contains bits of old, now obscure, poems and songs about the joys (and benefits) of "sauntering," leisurely and mindfully, through the New England hills.
In Thoreau's day, although this land was, technically, "owned," most of it was fallow and unfenced. When he walked Thoreau was free to ramble where he found a path, searching for an instinctive sense of direction in the human brain. "I know that something akin to the migratory instinct in birds...affects both nations and individuals," he observed. "[I]n Wildness is the preservation of the World. Every tree sends its fibers forth in search of the Wild."
When he wrote, too, Thoreau was free to ramble, throwing in odd bits of information from here and there. He cites what were then recent, now obscure, books and speeches, from all over the world, not necessarily in English. In Thoreau's day, educated Americans both wrote and read books in Latin (though this was not part of what literary historians saw as the trend in American literature, and many books have been dropped from school reading lists because they weren't part of the trend). Thoreau can get through a page without saying something in Latin, although he seems never to have made any particular effort to do so, and he also scatters liberal amounts of Spanish, French, and Greek through the pages of Walking.
For those who've not already read Walking, the surprise awaiting you in this book may be Thoreau's attitudes toward the news and issues of 1862.
To buy it here, send $5 per copy + $5 per package +$1 per online payment to either address listed at the bottom of the screen, above the Amazon gift card widget. (Yes, you can send Saloli an Amazon gift card for $11, as an alternative to sending $11 via Paypal to the address our Message Squirrel would send you. Or you can just pay the U.S. Post Office for a $10 money order to mail to P.O. Box 322, which is the safest method for all concerned.)