Conquering Saunterer Smackdown: Henry David Thoreau versus Noelle Dubay

6 mins read

Today, we’ll be featuring a debate between two experts on Henry David Thoreau, Henry David himself, and DDG’s Noelle Dubay.




Today we will bear witness to a clash of the titans between the famed naturalist, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, and our own Noelle Dubay, bookseller, Johns Hopkins Doctoral candidate, and assistant editor of the Concord Saunterer, a journal of Thoreau Studies. Our topic is current literature. The only rule is that your own literary works cannot be used as answers. Thank you both for joining us!

Henry: It is my good pleasure Kenny. I am pleased to finally meet Noelle in person, and to take this opportunity to thank her for her work on the Saunterer.

Noelle: Yes, thank you Kenny. Henry, I must say, you are not nearly as unattractive in person as Hawthorne led me to believe. And let me add, you were quite right to insist on the aesthetic preeminence of the well-groomed neckbeard, my fine, fine sir.

Great. My first question is, what is the best Maine-themed illustrated work for young children.

Henry: Hmmn. I’m going to put forward my own The Maine Woods. It is much like Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries For Sal, but fuller and richer in both theme and content. While not burdened with two dimensional pictured representations it is nonetheless illustrated with many deep seated and striking thoughts and observations.

Noelle: Given your love of huckleberries, Henry, I can’t say I’m surprised you like Blueberries for Sal. But is The Maine Woods really an appropriate read for young children, what with the angered spirit of Pomola haunting every page? I would instead recommend the classic Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, which inspired my ongoing love for the wild lupine.

I see. Round One goes to Noelle for her sound reasoning. All right then what is the finest book out today for Young Adults?

Henry: Hmmn. I would say my own Civil Disobedience. Young men and women have a natural inclination to resist authority and my book gives that impulse purpose and authority.

Noelle: While I believe you are right about the young adult constitution, Henry, perhaps something more contemporary would strike a livelier chord. I think you’d appreciate the reverence of the natural world and the sense of moral integrity implicit to Joelle Charbonneau’s exciting new novel, The Testing.

Round Two also goes to Noelle. Her exposition is the pithier. Now then, what is the finest work of fiction for adult readers out today?

Henry: Memoir is also a popular genre at present and I would say that my Journals are as captivating as anything that current readers will find lying to hand.

Noelle: I must say, Henry, I’ve read a number of your Journal entries, and while I do find them to my intellectual and emotional satisfaction, I feel compelled to say your irregular and sporadic punctuation may be off-putting to the more syntactically traditional reader. As an alternative, I’d put forth Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple—a hilarious new book about the absurdity which springs forth from a largely digital existence.

Round Three goes to Noelle as well, in that relevance and justness of sentiment will always occlude self infatuation. Okay and what is the finest collection of poetry recently published?

Henry: Recentness is a state of mind Kenny, whatever is spoken of is inherently refreshed thereby and so now I speak of my own poems.

Noelle: Now I must abruptly diverge from you, Henry, because it is a fact widely known that your poetry brings little joy to any reader, much as your prose delights. I found much to ponder in Anne Carson’s latest novel in verse, Red Doc>, which is a very modern work with deeply classic undertones. “By such a pile we may hope to scale heaven at last,” right Henry?

Noelle has won every round handily.  It was a smackdown indeed. Not only, Henry,  did you ignore the only rule of the contest but, as Noelle intimated, your own poetry, apart from the hidden Thoreau poems, is really rather a stale and flaccid affair, no matter how recently it has been exhumed to meet the readers’ eye.

Henry: Eye of the beholder, my good man, and in your case it is a jaundiced one indeed. And why shouldn’t I put my own work forward, it is the current custom and I weary of behaving civilly.

Noelle: Strong point, Henry. On that note, may I also recommend a collection of your own, recently edited by Robert Richardson: October, or Autumnal Hints. Thanks for the debate, Henry. And we might lend a sense of urgency to this week’s newsletter by heeding your own words, “Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”

Thank you both for your effort today!

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