TRACES OF THOREAU by Stephen Mulloney

TRACES OF THOREAU

A Cape Cod Journey
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KIRKUS REVIEW

paper 1-55553-343-4 Following the route taken by Thoreau during his 1849 sojourn on Cape Cod, Mulloney, in his debut, seeks to chart the harmonies and dissonances between now and then. Smitten by the transcendentalist’s Cape Cod at a time when he was looking for direction in his life (this is confided to readers in the introduction, whereafter he pretty much absents himself from the narrative), Mulloney decided to walk in Thoreau’s footprints along the cape’s outer beach, hoofing the strand from Orleans to Provincetown. Fortunately, Mulloney doesn’t stifle his book by adhering to every jot and tittle of Thoreau’s itinerary—and he probably couldn’t have, considering the cape’s ever- changing topography. He just wants to get a shot at some of the sublime intimations Thoreau experienced and to see how things have changed. Mulloney was prepared for the excursion. He was previously a reporter for a cape TV station; he boned up on his coastal geology and botany and bird life; he delved deeply into the cape’s embarrassment of literary riches. So he is able to speak with familiarity of poverty grass and skate eggs, kettles and drumlins, the cape-tethered writings of Henry Beston and Norman Mailer and Cynthia Huntington. But there is little in the way of personal insight. As he makes his way up the forearm of the cape, he bounces between nuggets of historical interest and his own everyday encounters, slips in mini-lectures on natural history, knits Thoreau’s trip to his own, all in a tone of unstinting and nonjudgmental bonhomie. Confronted with RVs or the spread of malls or the disputatious Cape Cod Commission, Mulloney will choose a rowboat every time. And like Thoreau, he has a taste for bad puns: Gazing upon a gnarled pine that reminds him of musical notation, he suggests, “Sea sharp?” An eager but soulless pocket tour of the outer shores of Cape Cod: bright, conversant, and without much personality. (illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: June 30th, 1998
ISBN: 1-55553-344-2
Page count: 176pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1998