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Henry David Thoreau

On the Vague Reading of a Truant Youth: Thoreau, Libertarianism, and Adolescence

In a particular passage of her much-circulated take-down of Henry David Thoreau, Kathryn Schulz arrives, it seems to me, at the real nub of our discomfort with both his persona and his writings: the best time in one’s life to read him, it seems, is in adolescence. Why, given Thoreau’s hypocrisy, his sanctimony, his dour asceticism, and his scorn, do we continue to cherish “Walden”? One answer is that we read him early. “Walden” is a staple of the high-school curriculum, and you could scarcely write a book more appealing to teen-agers: Thoreau endorses rebellion against societal norms, champions idleness Read more