Sun Feb 19 14:28:14 EST 2012

Walden

I've finished another audiobook: Henry David Thoreau's Walden. It's one of the longest audiobooks I've been through so far. The reader is quite good, and sounds a bit like the guy who does the tech quotes in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. So the reading itself is quite pleasant to listen to. What about the content?

Walden consists of Thoreau's thoughts that came from a two-year experiment in living simply. He built himself a hut in the wilderness and lived in it in an attempt to "suck the marrow out of life". To me, the first 3 chapters were the most interesting: those on "Economy", "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For" and "Reading". The others seemed to focus on the minutae of life in Walden, as opposed to Thoreau's thoughts concerning the same. This would've been less of a problem if I was reading with my eyes as opposed to my ears; for I would then be able to skim over these parts.

In the chapter on "Reading", Thoreau laments that most people read little more than the intellectual equivalent of fast food. To read and truly digest a book needs time and dedication, and I don't think that's possible with an audiobook; to do so would be like trying to drink a steak. (The irony of this thought coming from an audiobook is not lost on me.) This is a fundamental problem with trying to listen to any moderately serious work, because the reading speed will never be right. The mind wanders if the reading is too slow, but if the reading is too fast and it's easy to miss things and impossible to properly chew an idea.

Most interesting to me was the chapter on "Economy" and how it relates to my experience living on Windeward Bound. With so litte stowage space on board (and even less when we're on voyage), I was forced to consider very carefully what things I would take to Hobart. Although that chapter doesn't make me want to live in a cabin in the woods, it does make me want to carefully reconsider my possessions. Thoreau's complants about impractical, quickly-worn-out clothes and people blindly following fashion are still relevant today.

Walden makes me want to return to Canberra and reconsider everything I own, and for that I consider it time well spent.


Posted by Jack Kelly | Permanent link | File under: librivox