Henry David Thoreau

A new book explores the man behind the recluse in the woods.

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A reflection on the grittier side of being one with nature, and whether Henry David Thoreau really enjoyed it as much as he claimed to.

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From Zuccotti Park to the streets of Oakland, the Occupiers have been careful to define their ideology as broadly and vaguely as possible. That has been a wise decision. If you claim to represent the “99 percent,” it would be contradictory, as well as self-defeating, to assert there is just one correct explanation for what caused the economic crisis and just one true way to achieve economic justice for the heterogeneous majority.

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Born Losers: A History of Failure in AmericaBy Scott A. Sandage Harvard University Press, 362 pp. You might approach a book about losers with a certain hauteur. And Scott A. Sandage's opening anecdote about an unidentified loser who died in 1862 lends itself to your hunch that his book is going to be a dutiful trudge through a gallery of garden-variety failures. "I cannot help counting it a fault in him that he had no ambition," a friend grieved at the man's funeral. That's page one.

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