I thought it might be smart to read Thoreau's "Week on the Concord and Merrimack" because I am planning to spend at least a week walkinPROGRESS REPORT
I thought it might be smart to read Thoreau's "Week on the Concord and Merrimack" because I am planning to spend at least a week walking along the Merrimack next spring. What did Thoreau find there when he and his brother John ran upriver and down between Lowell, Massachusetts, and Hooksett, New Hampshire, I wondered to myself? How did he describe it? How has it changed? Maybe I could learn something about that neck of the woods from one of the greats.
I might better have studied astronomy by reading "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy."
What an extravagantly strange book is Thoreau’s "Week"! If Thoreau’s immortal name rested on his "Week," instead of on his "Walden," he would be long forgotten. No wonder A Week received “mixed reviews” and sold “poorly” when it was first published in 1849. The quotes are from the concise chronology at the back of the Library of America edition of Thoreau. There we learn that the "Week" was such a bomb the author eventually took back 706 copies of the first printing of 1,000, leading him to say, “I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself.”
Of the three hundred pages in my edition of "A Week," Thoreau spends about 50 pages on the river and 250 in his imagination. I wanted to learn about the landscape around Manchester, New Hampshire, not about Hindoo [sic] philosophy or the mean of a Friend.
After a cursory glance at "The Maine Woods" and "Cape Cod" in the back half of the L/o/A edition, I am turning to Thoreau’s other book-length work, "Walden." I never meant to read "Walden" as I prepare for my pilgrimage to Montreal, but now I have to. (If you got this far and are wondering about the pilgrimage, see my blog witness2christ.blogspot.com.)
I have to understand how the man who splashed up and down the Concord and Merrimack during a desultory week in 1838 managed to turn around and write one of the great works of American, or any national, literature a few years later....more