Thursday, April 02, 2009

Borrowed Fire: Walden: The TOC

(What is Borrowed Fire?)

Here's the text of Walden from Project Gutenberg.

There's nothing like a list for making wacky juxtapositions and bringing obscure concepts to the fore. McSweeney's online has a section entirely devoted to lists. Some of the greatest finds in Found Magazine are lists. Lots of contemporary poems and stories are or contain lists.

Looking at the Table of Contents for Walden, I'm reminded of how much I love it as a work in itself:

Where I Lived, and What I Lived For
The Bean-Field
The Village
The Ponds
Baker Farm
Higher Laws
Brute Neighbors
Former Inhabitants and Winter Visitors
Winter Animals
The Pond in Winter

The juxtapostions are striking: Reading / Sounds; Solitude / Visitors; Higher Laws / Brute Neighbors. And then the oddly specific outlier, Baker Farm. I also like how the titles circle around the concepts of "warming" and "winter" toward the end--almost like an animal circling before lying down, perhaps in a pocket in the snow. There's a story in the titles themselves, complete with an arc. "Conclusion" puts a weird, dull damper on the whole thing, even though the actual conclusion turns out to be quite lyrical ("The sun is but a morning star" is the last line of the book).

So there are a couple of things we might do with this list. One is to come up with a similar list or lists, inspired by this one--combinations of the abstract and the concrete, seeming opposites which are not quite opposites, with puzzling insertions. Another would be to take the list as a starting point and fill it in with our own stories of "Brute Neighbors" and "Baker Farm," whatever we think those are. Or we might fill in this list with sub and sub-sub lists, using the MS Word outlining tool, which everyone adores so much.

No comments: