Friday, December 4, 2009

Thoreau's Journal

I have praised New York Review Books several times in this blog over the years, and with the gifting season upon us I must do so again. There’s a fascinating mix of fiction and non-fiction in their catalog -- dare I say that there’s something for everyone, including children? Well, perhaps not for Twitterati, Kindlers, book burners, or others who make up the majority of the post-literate world. For the rest of us -- the five, ten percent who are actual readers -- though, NYRB is an excellent hunting ground.

Readers of this blog in particular may look to one of their recent books. It’s what I want for Xanukkahmasanza, or the Winter Festive Season. And it’s what I bought the other day to celebrate the Fool Moon. Henry David Thoreau's The Journal: 1837-1861. Thoreau’s journal, begun when he was twenty and carried on till some months before he died, is enormous, and the full-length version is correspondingly mammoth (a two volume Dover reprint that puts four pages to a page, or a still uncompleted 16-volume Princeton edition that sells for about a $100 a volume). What the NYRB has just published is an abridgement, heroically whittled down by Damion Searls (and others uncredited, I'm sure). It's 667 pages long -- damn, they should have ended a page before!, for certainly HDT is one of the saints of the devil's dissenting party in America's otherwise reactionary scheme -- a survey, to be sure, of a greater landscape. But what a landscape! Even an snapshot is memorable.

Dec 4, 1856:
Saw and heard cheep faintly one little tree sparrow, the neat chestnut crowned and winged and white-barred bird, perched on a large and solitary white birch. So clean and tough, made to withstand the winter. This color reminds me of the upper side of the shrub oak leaf. I love the few homely colors of Nature at this season, -- her strong wholesome browns, her sober and primeval grays, her celestial blue, her vivacious green, her pure cold snowy white.

Oh yeah, I remember winter. Meanwhile, today I saw half a dozen flower species in bloom in the Liz Christie Garden on Houston.

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