The world is never done catching up with Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), the author of Walden, “Civil Disobedience,” and other classics. A prophet of environmentalism and vegetarianism, an abolitionist, and a critic of materialism and technology, Thoreau even seems to have anticipated a world of social distancing in his famous experiment at Walden Pond. In Now Comes Good Sailing, twenty-seven of today’s leading writers offer wide-ranging original pieces exploring how Thoreau has influenced and inspired them—and why he matters more than ever in an age of climate, racial, and technological reckoning.
Here, Lauren Groff retreats from the COVID-19 pandemic to a rural house and writing hut, where, unable to write, she rereads Walden; Pico Iyer describes how Thoreau provided him with an unlikely guidebook to Japan; Gerald Early examines Walden and the Black quest for nature; Rafia Zakaria reflects on solitude, from Thoreau’s Concord to her native Pakistan; Mona Simpson follows in Thoreau’s footsteps at Maine’s Mount Katahdin; Jennifer Finney Boylan reads Thoreau in relation to her experience of coming out as a trans woman; Adam Gopnik traces Thoreau’s influence on the New Yorker editor E. B. White and his book Charlotte’s Web; and there’s much more.
The result is a lively and compelling collection that richly demonstrates the countless ways Thoreau continues to move, challenge, and provoke readers today.
"A remarkable anthology. . . . Blauner’s table of contents reads like a ‘Who’s Who of Intelligent Modern Prose’. . . . This collection amplifies the wisdom of Thoreau for an age that is frequently hard of hearing."—John Kaag, New York Times
"Many of the 27 pieces gathered in Andrew Blauner’s anthology Now Comes Good Sailing, by such leading lights as Jennifer Finney Boylan, Adam Gopnik, Lauren Groff and Geoff Wisner, . . . emphasize Thoreau’s exuberant and often funny side, though none do this as memorably as George Howe Colt’s ‘Thoreau on Ice’. . . . And what a wonder to read, in James Marcus’s ‘Thoreau in Love,’ how the erotically stunted Henry opened his heart to Emerson’s wife, Lidian, imagining how, together, they would ‘splice the heavens.’"—Christoph Irmscher, Wall Street Journal
"A rich new anthology."—Nina MacLaughlin, Boston Globe
"[A] dynamic collection. . . . The contributors address what about Thoreau’s life and writing inspired them, and what he has to say to readers today. . . . The pieces make a convincing case that Thoreau’s work is ever-relevant and deserving of continued wide readership. . . . Thoreau fans will be delighted."—Publishers Weekly
"In graceful, often lyrical essays, the 26 contributors to Blauner’s thoughtful collection . . . consider Thoreau’s meaning in their lives. . . . Candid, often insightful reflections testify to Thoreau’s enduring appeal."—Kirkus
"Now Comes Good Sailing forms a wonderfully incidental biography of Thoreau and proves his immortal value. It will surprise and delight Thoreauvians and newcomers alike"—Alice Bloch, Geographical
"Now Comes Good Sailing shows that we shouldn’t dismiss the transcendentalist nor the lessons he learned at Walden. . . . The essays in Now Comes Good Sailing vary widely in tone and style, offering a range of perspectives on how Thoreau’s nineteenth-century writing can still find relevance in 2022."—Austin Price, Earth Island Journal
"An intriguing compilation that could lead you to hunt down your own copy of Walden."—Edward Hardy, Brown Alumni Magazine
"Most readers will experience this anthology as a welcome imperative, an invitation to take up Thoreau once again."—Choice
“As this book ably demonstrates, few writers have meant as much to other writers as Thoreau. He began a conversation that is still underway, one that gives off heat but far more light."—Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
“Harangues, meditations, songs of praise, hymns to a darkness that awakens thought—all are here and more. In Now Comes Good Sailing, a rich kaleidoscope of responses address Thoreau’s relentless question: Where do we live now, and what do we live for? These essays bring Thoreau back to life, and ourselves back into relation with each other and our common world.”—Laura Dassow Walls, author of Henry David Thoreau: A Life
"What a brilliant collection of some of my favorite writers about my very favorite writer. How to live: That was the secret that Thoreau was uncovering, and this book offers us a map to just that."—David Gessner, author of Quiet Desperation, Savage Delight: Sheltering with Thoreau in the Age of Crisis
“In true Thoreauvian fashion, the pieces in Now Comes Good Sailing range widely and thoughtfully across topics and disciplines. The collection provides multiple points of entry for readers new to Thoreau, while also encouraging those already familiar with him to revisit his life and writings in creative and timely ways.”—James S. Finley, editor of Henry David Thoreau in Context