Friday, July 11, 2014


Gosh, what an ugly looking book. Your hand might not want to reach for it, but you should, the reading is a delight from both Henry David Thoreau's own time when he traveled by train in 1861 (one year before his untimely death) with young Horace Mann, Jr. (also an early fatality) from Massachusetts to Minnesota and back, to the 21st century author Corinne Hosfeld Smith's charmed and friendly prose. She's a librarian from Paxton, Massachusetts and I want to imagine an ideal one. She has much the same vigor, humor and hankering for detail that Thoreau had and she shares it throughout this sturdy portrait and study. This is the longest and least known of the Thoreau's excursions, which included up and in and around New England and the American Northeast, Canada (Quebec), Maine Woods and Cape Cod. As Thoreau scholar Laura Dassow Walls shares in her excellent introduction, "Walking became a form of thinking, which took shape as writing — he (Thoreau) once remarked that the length of his walks marked the length of his journal entries — and in his second essay, "A Walk to Wachusett," he wrote that "the landscape lies far and fair within, and the deepest thinker is the farthest travelled."

Go west, young man.


Westward I Go Free:
tracing Thoreau's last journey

Corinne Hosfeld Smith
Green Frigate Books, 2012