Features essays by Jennifer Finney Boylan • Kristen Case • George Howe Colt • Gerald Early • Paul Elie • Will Eno • Adam Gopnik • Lauren Groff • Celeste Headlee • Pico Iyer • Alan Lightman • James Marcus • Megan Marshall • Michelle Nijhuis • Zoë Pollak • Jordan Salama • Tatiana Schlossberg • A. O. Scott • Mona Simpson • Stacey Vanek Smith • Wen Stephenson • Robert Sullivan • Amor Towles • Sherry Turkle • Geoff Wisner • Rafia Zakaria • and a cartoon by Sandra Boynton
The world is never done catching up with Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), the author of Walden, “Civil Disobedience,” and other classics. A prophet of environmentalism and vegetarianism, an abolitionist, and a critic of materialism and technology, Thoreau even seems to have anticipated a world of social distancing in his famous experiment at Walden Pond. In Now Comes Good Sailing, twenty-seven of today’s leading writers offer wide-ranging original pieces exploring how Thoreau has influenced and inspired them―and why he matters more than ever in an age of climate, racial, and technological reckoning.
Here, Lauren Groff retreats from the COVID-19 pandemic to a rural house and writing hut, where, unable to write, she rereads Walden; Pico Iyer describes how Thoreau provided him with an unlikely guidebook to Japan; Gerald Early examines Walden and the Black quest for nature; Rafia Zakaria reflects on solitude, from Thoreau’s Concord to her native Pakistan; Mona Simpson follows in Thoreau’s footsteps at Maine’s Mount Katahdin; Jennifer Finney Boylan reads Thoreau in relation to her experience of coming out as a trans woman; Adam Gopnik traces Thoreau’s influence on the New Yorker editor E. B. White and his book Charlotte’s Web; and there’s much more.
The result is a lively and compelling collection that richly demonstrates the countless ways Thoreau continues to move, challenge, and provoke readers today.
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