Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Walden: The Official Haiku Review

I must make a confession: I couldn't finish Thoreau's Walden. I know it epitomizes the American Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century, with its emphasis on self-reliance and individual spirituality. I know it's a classic, important work that influenced not only many writers, but future environmentalists. I know I really should finish this book; I chose it as my last selection for my summer Remedial Lit Project (pre-WWI American) because I looked at a list of writers I'd never read and Thoreau was the most glaring omission.

I also know that if I had a time machine and could meet Thoreau, I would likely find him an insufferable git. So here is my Official Haiku Review of the first third of Thoreau's Walden:

Do you own your stuff,
Or does it own you? You fool!
Go away. You suck.

I can't say I disagree with Thoreau's premises about consumerism, self-reliance, and the value of nature. (If he thought mid-19th century America was shallow and obsessed with possessions, I can only imagine how appalling he would find modern culture.) He has some valuable observations about what's really important in life, and some really poetic descriptions of his little shack in the woods by Walden Pond. Unfortunately, the overall tone of the work can only be described as smug. Now, I managed to plod through dozens of chapters on whales in Moby Dick, and wade through intelligible dialogue in The Pioneers, and I was willing to do so for the sake of a story. It wasn't always a great story, but I wanted to know how things would turn out.

However, I'm not going to sit still and be harangued at by a misanthropic hermit just for some pretty descriptions of nature. I'd rather sit out in a hammock and enjoy it firsthand, preferably while reading something that's meaningful and entertaining. So I'm taking my one pass for the summer and stopping early. I'm also stopping my Remedial Lit Project until next summer, when I will try to get to many of those foreign authors I never read. Don't despair, however; the Haiku Review will return next month as I begin my Remedial Film Classics Project.

1 comment:

  1. Your haiku made me "Ha!" Completely legit use of the pass, I think, especially since I know what else you've read this summer.

    Now, if I could just figure out what the prizes are!