WALDEN POND by W. Barksdale Maynard
Kirkus Star


A History
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The history—starting mostly from the Emersonian/Thoreauvian era—of America’s most famous pond and enduring symbol of the environmental movement.

Maynard (Architectural History/Johns Hopkins Univ. and Univ. of Delaware) first visited the site as a student in 1986 and with this work moves near the head of the very large class of pond-o-philes. His study, which follows a loose dawn-to-dark pattern, bears a slightly misleading title: He spends a few pages on the geological history of the pond but his cynosure is principally Henry David Thoreau (1817–62) and his enduring influence. The glacial pond, says Maynard, replaces its water every five years through leaching and rainfall. There is no spring feeding the pond; no streams flow from it. Thoreau first saw the 61.5-acre lake in 1821 and lived his famous two years there in 1845–47. Maynard properly revises several popular misconceptions about Thoreau, who was not alone in the wilderness. From his little house (10x15 ft.) he could see both the Concord road and the railroad; he had many visitors; he frequently saw his family, who lived hard by. Still, he did go to the site countless times—before and after his celebrated sojourn—sounding its depths, staring at stumps, becoming an authority on its flora and fauna. Maynard quotes liberally from Walden and from Thoreau’s journals; he quotes, as well, from letters, journals, and publications of many others—Thoreau’s coevals and their successors, ranging from Jack Kerouac to Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, who lived in his own Thoreauvian cabin. Later portions deal with the encroachments of “civilization” over the last 150 years and the ferocious defense of the pond by assorted groups, most successfully the Walden Woods Project (for whom the author has worked), which raised millions of dollars under the leadership of Eagles rocker Don Henley to buy adjacent lands eyed greedily by developers and local government alike and to establish the Thoreau Institute. Great maps show who’s owned what around the pond.

Essential for readers of Thoreau. (85 halftones)

Pub Date: March 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-19-516841-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2003


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