For Love of the World: Essays on Nature Writers by Sherman Paul

By Sherman Paul

Essays study the character writings of such members as John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Henry Beston, Loren Eiseley, Richard Nelson, and Barry Lopez.

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For Love of the World: Essays on Nature Writers

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Bachelard treats water in Water and Dreams, but in my recollection of this wonderful book dreaming is not as important as death, though the dreaming may be of death, as the brilliant analysis of Poe's imagery reminds us. Neither A Week nor Walden especially calls up Poenor Melville and Whitman. But Cape Cod does, by virtue of the fact that getting a better view of the ocean is tantamount, as the first chapter indicates, to getting a better view of death. Beginnings and endings in Cape Cod are not exclusively matters of discovery and settlement; voyaging (and shipwreck), discovery, and settlement are metaphors, ways of viewing life and its prospects.

In enacting the visual drama of Emerson's ''Circles"here is the abandonment, here the eye is the first circle, the horizon the secondthe process, as Thoreau observes it, is lateral, not ascendant. He has extended his scope (his landskope view) but not necessarily advanced an Idea. The "whole of it" does not receive a covering generalization. All of which is to say that Cape Cod is not a fable of the will. At the start, plan yields to accident, itself a significant turn of events. News of the shipwreck of the St.

Breadth of view," answering to the purposes of Thoreau's excursion, also suggests acquiring, as Thoreau does, a wealth of information about what one sees, of letting that come into one's view. If Cape Cod does not give us the whole of itit is, finally, too shore-bound for thatit gives us an unusual breadth of view. And it remains a still-serviceable guidebook because of its unusual view and its exemplification of a present way of seeing. When Thoreau puns on his name, he invites us to consider his material imagination, the imagination which, according to Gaston Bachelard, characteristically works with one of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water.

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