Thoreau died on this day in 1862. While the 147th anniversary of someone’s death is not really one to be celebrated there are currently two, TWO, great books about the myth and philosophy of Henry David Thoreau.
The novel, Woodsburner (reviewed here in The Washington Post), circles on the day that Thoreau burned down a forest (yup, a whole forest. 300 acres) on the Concord river in Massachusetts. While Theoreau is an integral componet (striking the match, etc. etc.) the story shines brightest (get it, fire pun) when the supporting characters take over. Thoreau shrinks to the background and only pops up again at the end.
The Thoreau You Don’t Know by Robert Sullivan was also recently released and Robert had this to say:
“I didn’t know Thoreau very well before I read Sullivan’s engaging work. But this excellent introductionm to the man and his legacy cognently argues that Thoreau was gregarious, community-minded, a man who engaged in society rather than removing himself from it. “heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads,” said Thoreau. Robert says: Read this, and then read Walden. Michael Pollan fans will like this.”
Sullivan does talk about Thoreau burning down the forest if you want a historical telling. I’d insert another fire/match/burning pun but I think Ron Charles of the Washington Post goes above and beyond.