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Cape Cod

Cape Cod (Paperback) by Henry David Thoreau

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From AudioFile

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 --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

Contemporary and Early Reviews

Review from the March 1865 issue of The Atlantic Monthly

"Notice of New Books" from the July 1865 issue of New Englander and Yale Review


5 out of 5 stars Cape Cod is the ultimate desert island beach book., January 30, 1997

By A Customer

This review is from: Cape Cod (Paperback)

Each year, in preparation for a week's retreat to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I go in search of a book that would be perfect for a sojourn on a desert island. Of course, the Outer Banks are hardly deserted--the locals have printed up Wege's infamous photograph of a packed stretch of Coney Island with the caption "Nags Head, circa 2000 A.D."--but there we are on an island for seven days, my husband experiencing near death in the waves while I read. Sometimes we stop these pursuits and prowl the beach. Mostly we live as if we're the last two people on earth (which is easier in the off-peak season). I've learned that not every book is right for this way of life. The perfect desert island book has to celebrate the place you are in, not transport you. It should offer a tinge of society, because, after all, a human is a social animal, but it should not make you yearn achingly for what has been left behind nor should you be so repelled by it that you will never fit in again when you leave the island (you always leave the island). It should have some narrative sweep to withstand the competition of the seascape. It should make you think, at least a little: you want the stress to wash out to sea, not the little grey cells. Cape Cod by Henry David Thoreau is the benchmark by which I've chosen beach material for several years. it is the quintessential celebration of littoral life. If you are on the beach, you appreciate it all the more; if you are not, well, at least you know vividly what you are missing. There is drama, as in the specter of villagers racing to the shore at the news of a shipwreck. There is information, as in what part of the clam not to eat, how the Indians trapped gulls for food, how a lighthouse really works. There is Thoreau's contagious respect for solitude, his occasional crankiness, and that magic trick of his that can suck in high school sophomores and get them through his books without so much as a whimper. There is one flaw to Cape Cod: brevity. It lasts about a day and a half on the Robinson Crusoe plan. This is not to say that it does not withstand re-reading, it does, but at some point after you have committed it to memory, you may wish for the collected works of Shakespeare and move onto the Bard's beach play, The Tempest.

5 out of 5 stars BEST EDITION AVAILABLE, BY FAR, June 13, 2007

By Kevin M.

This review is from: Cape Cod (Hardcover)

This hardcover edition from Peninsula Press is unquestionably the best available edition of Thoreau's Cape Cod, for these reasons:

1) While all other editions are based on Thoreau's journal entries from only his first three visits to the Cape, this edition includes an epilogue compiling Thoreau's notes from his fourth and final visit, in which he traveled south to Chatham and Monomoy.

2) This is the only edition to translate the many, many Greek and Latin phrases Thoreau includes throughout the work, and it is also the only edition to provide illustrations, maps, and sidenotes in-text.

3) This is the only indexed edition ever created.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for fans of both Cape literature and Thoreau in general.

5 out of 5 stars Leave your brain at the door., June 24, 1999

By A Customer

This review is from: Cape Cod (Nature Library, Penguin) (Paperback)

You will forget about the outside world when you read this; nothing but sand, wind, and water. Plus some natural history, local folklore, a few shipwreck tales. Typical Thoreau; he finds beauty, interest, detail in the wilderness. The desolate landscape will help to clear your mind. Highly recommended.

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