I have a whole bunch of books I know that I should be reviewing right now, but I'm in one of those moods where I'm just not interested in doing anything that will require that much thought, and I'm tired, which right now translates into I'm not going to write anything nice/worthwhile, and most of the books I have in my review que are books that I really, really enjoyed. I don't want those reviews to be crappy, because these books deserve more than that. I thought about not doing anything for today, but I did that yesterday. I was browsing my bookshelves, and I saw my copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I read Walden (or Walden Pond, depending on your copy) about a year ago and wrote up a short review on goodreads. I've been wanting to read and talk about more than just YA lately, and decided that now was as good a time as any.
So, in my title I ask if I'm in the majority or the minority. Meaning- I want to know if anyone who has read this book actually liked it. I've talked to a lot of people who like Thoreau. And, after conversing with them further, I discovered that all of them (except for one) were lying. At least a little. They had read excerpts of Walden or individual quotations and thought them to be insightful and thought-provoking. I agree. When taken one sentence at a time, after, of course, carefully screening for only those which inspire deep thought and meditation, Thoreau is just fine.
I read most of Civil Disobedience in HS as well as excerpts from Walden and I spent a few years thinking Thoreau was pretty hot stuff (literarily speaking of course...). So, when I found a pretty faux-leather bound copy of Walden and Other Writings at a used bookstore, I grabbed it, and went home so excited to read it, thinking I was going to be so edified. And then, after I started reading it, I realized I was so bored. Thoreau takes 300+ pages to talk about spending 2ish years in the woods, and with the amount he rambled, I'm thinking 100 to 150 pages would have been better. He told stories that related to nothing. In the middle of a chapter about walking around, he's suddenly start spouting off about this dove/dog/man who were all searching for each other and then... and then... and then... nothing. No resolution. He even itemized how much it cost him to build his little home in the woods. (Or rather, how much it should have cost him, because I swear, everything he took with him was donated by someone else...)
Anyway, I could have gotten past the fact that Thoreau's life was a little dull, because really- he's spending 2 years in the woods with very little human contact, and no amenities. Don't get me wrong- I love the woods. I'm not gonna lie- I'd totally go live in the middle of the woods if I had the chance, although I'd make sure I took electricity and a flushing toilet with me... So, I could have forgiven that, and probably enjoyed this book a lot more if Thoreau didn't come off as so darn pompous and self-righteous. I'm kind of glad I never had to meet this man, because his writing makes him sound like one of the most condescending men I've ever come across. And, living in the woods for 2 years without the luxury of a doormat and then moving back to your original home does not make you qualified to tell me that my luxuries are the beginnings of my downfall into evil. He doesn't exactly say this, but it's pretty close and I definitely felt like Thoreau was talking/looking down on the rest of us. I might take Thoreau and his preachings about the benefits of an entirely simple life if he had always lived by Walden. But he didn't. He went home after a few years. But, he's still better than all the rest of us who invite evil into our lives. Bully for you Thoreau.
I understand that this opinion very possibly makes me sound like an uncultured, uneducated philistine. I mean really, Thoreau is one of the Transcendentalists, right up there with Hawthorne, Whitman, and Emerson. I get that... But, I don't care. I didn't enjoy Walden. It's entirely possible that I was simply in the wrong mood to read this type of literature/philosophy when I gave it a shot, but I don't think so. Because I own the book and doubt I'll be getting rid of it (it's pretty and looks great on my bookshelf) I'll probably give this a try again in a few years, when I'm older and hopefully wiser and all that great stuff. And, if I'm still blogging, I'll be sure and let all of you know about my new opinion, if it changes at all.
But I'm confused by all the 5 star ratings on Goodreads. Many more than I would have expected. The 4 and 5 star reviews strongly outweigh the negative reviews. So I wonder... Is there something that I'm missing? Or has the general population bought into the idea that they have to give the book a higher star rating to prove that they did, in fact, get it, as so many of us lesser people seem to not. Perhaps this paragraph doesn't make as much sense as it should... Although I was quite put off by Thoreau himself and his writing, I can see where the basic ideas of economy and simplicity could really resonate with someone. Perhaps, because I was raised to understand that living within my means and avoiding debt and extravagant lifestyles made this book superfluous to me, so I didn't feel it connect with me, but regardless. Whatever the reason I or you come up with, Walden was not for me.
So, I'll ask you again. Am I in the majority, or the minority on this one? How did YOU feel about Walden and Thoreau's writing in general?