No one has succeeded in showing Just why Walden is a masterpiece, says Professor Anderson. He deplores the usual classification as social criticism, straight autobiography, nature essays. Instead, he has undertaken the ""first strictly literary interpretation... as a unified whole, using Thoreau's own reading, his other writings, and recent factual studies of the man to enrich his commentary on the design and chapter-by-chapter progression of that ""deliberately radical book."" Background materials and textual criticism are combined with a light, free hand; and familiar elements (romanticism, transcendentalism, political economy) lose much of their staleness upon examination of Thoreau's unique compound. The interpretation of wit and metaphor as keys to the book's style has particular interest. Anderson's own style tends to be obtrusive, but his approach is humane and lively, and his enthusiasm infectious--the study has the unexpected additional merit of making one want to reread Thoreau.