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This memoir distinguishes itself from others in its “graphic” elements—the appropriated diagrams, instructions, and “exploded view” inventory images—that Parsons has used. They help guide the reader’s understanding of the piece, giving the reader a visual anchor for the story, and add a technical aspect to the lyric essays that they hold. This mixture of the machine-like and the lyrical helps the reader understand the author’s world more fully—a world where art comes in the form of a welding torch, where creativity involves finding new ways to use old machines, and where delineating between right-brain and left-brain thinking isn’t so easy.
Learning from Thoreau is an intimate intellectual walk with America’s most edgy and original environmentalist. The thrust of the book consists not in learning “about” Thoreau from an intermediary but, as the title suggests, in learning “from” Thoreau along with the author—whose lifelong engagement with this “genius of the natural world” leads him to examine the process of learning from an admired model.
Using both images and text, Andrew Menard offers a personal meditation on Thoreau’s thought, its originality, and its influence on the modern environmental movement. He places Thoreau in dialogue with contemporary artists and thinkers and associates him with a rich variety of places: Walden Pond, the Museum of Modern Art, the Rockefeller State Park Preserve in upstate New York, Mormon Mesa northeast of Las Vegas, and the old town of Königsberg, Prussia. Each place, each experience, each writer, and each work of art provides a different line of approach. The author also leads us through an expanding and deepening series of keywords that trigger fresh occasions to learn from Thoreau: Concord, Walden, walking, seeing, nature, wildness, beauty. The result is a deeply nuanced and informed portrait of Thoreau’s inner and outer landscape.