Thursday, February 25, 2016

On Walden Pond, Dude

In a perfect storm of early 21st century wackiness, a fellow is running a Kickstarter campaign to pay for a deluxe edition of Henry David Thoreau's Walden, only in updated language.

Matt Steel believes that folks will really groove on Thoreau's ideas and vision if they can only get past his 1854 language. Because Walden is in the public domain, he doesn't have to get anyone's permission to perform his update. Once the revision is complete, Steel plans to have it made available as a hardcover, printed on archival paper, in a cloth slipcase and foil-stamped cover.

Acculturated writer Stephanie Cohen asks an interesting economic question: Who's going to buy a fancy edition of a modern revision of a book they aren't reading now when it's free?

And although I'm not one of Thoreau's biggest fans, I would think that part of the pleasure of encountering his argument is the way he uses language to frame it. After all, we're not talking about pre-standardized spelling like Chaucer or the days of the thees, thous, eths and ests of William Shakespeare. Thoreau wrote in 1854. He could have offered plain brown wrapper prose if he'd wanted to. Part of the learning that comes from reading Walden is having to look up Thoreau's metaphors and allusions and translating them into modern terms for oneself. That's what sharpens the mind -- not having it done for me.

Oh well, I guess I could be wrong. Perhaps Mr. Steel will next tackle a famous work from some nine years after Walden. He might be able to get it down below 250 words.

1 comment:

fillyjonk said...

My feeling about Thoreau: he's probably best experienced before you turn 20 or so. I first read "Walden" at 30 and found myself mentally snarking at him. (I think you have to still be idealistic and not be a bit tired and beaten-down by life and cynical. Because Thoreau, for all his talk of being a rugged wilderness-type, seemingly spent an awful lot of time at the Emerson's getting dinners and the like)