Am I that unusual or touchy in thinking that “scum” is an unpleasant, if not vulgar, label to have squarely pinned to one’s back?
In “Pond Scum” (The New Yorker, October 19th) Kathryn Schultz blithely presents a “misanthropic,” “horrible” Thoreau. Apart from the vulgarity of the greeting, the piece offers a deeply distorting picture of the iconic writer of woodlands and ponds, rivers, meadows, and mountains. As it happens, Thoreau loved people and as well as ponds. He created a healthy swamp around his brother’s grave in Sleepy Hollow so that John’s nutrients could be happily recycled. Out of love he wanted to extend John’s life.
The Ecstasy of Influence” (The New Yorker, September 9th) gives us a revealing aside from Emerson, who speaks of his protege’s exuberant affection for kids:
Thoreau charmed Waldo [the father’s five year old] by the variety of toys, whistles, boats, popguns &…
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