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by Henry David Thoreau
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This relatively minor work by Thoreau illustrates the qualities that define his greatest works: his clarity and ease of style, and his concreteness as a naturalist and observer of nature and society. Compiled from magazine articles published in the 1850s after his death, these chapters detail several short trips Thoreau made to "the bare and bended arm of Massachusetts" between 1849 and 1855. Patrick Cullen's unforced and straightforward delivery treats the text as journalism and travelogue, rather than lyrical prose, and thus conveys both Thoreau's strengths as a reporter and the secret of handling this author successfully in the audio format. In addition to its literary merit, this book is also an effective evocation of Cape Cod a century and a half ago, when the old ways were being both lost and preserved against the encroachments of civilization, technology, and inexorable modernity. D.A.W. © AudioFile 2001, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
Cape Cod is Thoreau's sunniest, happiest book. It bubbles over with jokes, puns, tall tales, and genial good humor. . . . Unquestionably the best book that has ever been written about Cape Cod, and it is the model to which all new books about the Cape are still compared.
Thoreau's compelling account of Cape Cod is here presented in the complete and definitive text. His trips to the Cape, he wrote, were intended to afford "a better view than I had yet had of the ocean." In the plants, animals, topography, weather, people, and human works of Massachusetts' long projection into the Atlantic, he finds "another world." Encounters with the ocean dominate the book, from the fatal shipwreck of the opening episode to the late reflections on the Pilgrims' Cape Cod landing and reconnaissance. Along the way, Thoreau relates the experiences of fishermen and oystermen, farmers and salvagers, lighthouse-keepers and ship-captains, as well as his own intense confrontations with the sea as he travels the land's outermost margins. Chronicles of exploration, settlement, and survival on the Cape lead Thoreau to reconceive the history of New England and to recognize the parochialism of history itself.
Our way to the high sand-bank, which I have described as extending all along the coast, led, as usual, through patches of Bayberry bushes, which straggled into the sand. This, next to the Shrub-oak, was perhaps the most common shrub thereabouts. I was much attracted by its odoriferous leaves and small gray berries which are clustered about the short twigs, just below the last year's growth. I know of but two bushes in Concord, and they, being staminate plants, do not bear fruit.
About the Author
Robert Pinsky is Professor of English at Boston University and an editor of the weekly online magazine "Slate". He is the author of many books of poetry and literary criticism. He served two terms as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, 1997-2000.
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