Saturday, January 10, 2009

Post Revolution, Pre Civil War


I picked up "Walden", "Into the Wild" and "Slaughter House 5" at the book store today. On the train I began Walden. Something about nearing 30 and trying to decide what to do with my life, I was obviously drawn to a group of books that were tackling similar issues. Only this time, I left Murakami on the shelf.

Complaining about the foreign book selection in Japan is equivalent to whining about the lack of good salt water fish in Iowa, but one tends to get spoiled when English is your mother tongue. I stood in front of the single shelf of foreign books at Book First within the bowels of the newly designed Cocoon Tower going back and forth between column A and B. Column A had many suited men professing the numerous ways of how to get rich or find the meaning of life whereas column B offered the alternative approach of finding yourself while dodging and taking punches in a book like Fight Club. In the end I put Fight Club back on the shelf for another day and pulled off Slaughter House 5 instead. The cylindrical column behind me then caught my eye and I noticed it was filled with "classic" novels, although a few of those should have an asterisk denoting "instant".

This is where Walden found me.

Just before checking out I looked around once more and "Into the Wild" caught my eye. I bounced between the 4 different versions they had on display looking at the prices and then the designs and heft of each novel. In the end a Japanese translation won out for it's 50% discount over the English originals. I figured if I was going to be doing a little self discovery with these books, why not let my motivation to devour the lessons learned by these great poets and authors push me to pick up some Japanese along the way.

The train ride back from a night out at a small bistro afforded me with the opportunity to read the introduction to Walden and I was struck by the author's comment that the American Romantic Period in which Thoreau lived was a time in which the US was just coming off of the Revolutionary War and headed smack into its own Civil War. It was a time in which America was trying to discover itself and Thoreau was an example of that struggle. I have yet to even start into the book, but already I can feel it speaking to me.

A man living in a cabin in the woods 150 years ago, whose words still reverberate across the decades to guide me, is truly miraculous.

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