LIVING AT THE END OF TIME by John Hanson Mitchell


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Quiet musings on Thoreau, nature, death, brothers, technology, and apparently whatever else wandered into mind, by the author of Ceremonial Time (1984). ""Thoreau went to the woods because he wished to live deliberately and confront only the essential things in life. I went there because my wife and I had separated and the woods were the only place I could find affordable housing""--so confesses Mitchell, explaining why he designed, built, and inhabited for one year a nco-Gothic wood cabin on his property in Littleton, Mass. From this cozy corner, Mitchell sallied forth to visit Thoreau's grave, observe coyote and deer, scythe a field, inspect a local high-tech firm, chew the fat with local eccentrics (notably ""Bill,"" who prowled the woods in animal skins), and read his father's travel diaries. The venture gave Mitchell new insights (""I would find myself marvelling at common phenomena such as running water"") and renewed respect for the eminence gris of Concord. Said insights, however, offer little to outsiders--sometimes Mitchell's musings seem to belong in a personal journal of a circular letter to friends rather than in a book for the general public, while at other times his well-intentioned comments creak with cliches (""I feel more in touch with deeper, less evident cycles in the universe, closer to the moving spirit of the land""). Mitchell's nature observations and his capsule portraits of neighbors hold the attention, but the book has no center, and perhaps as a result, lacks the passion that inflames the Walden Wizard's every page.

Pub Date: May 9th, 1990
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin