Yesterday you had a chance to meet Matt Steel and his story of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Today, you have the opportunity to help with the realization of the new adaptation of Walden, as today the Kickstarter campaign begins. Click here to go there now.
First published in 1854, Walden is a heady mix of memoir, philosophy, satire, and nature writing. Although the book was initially met with small success, many later critics have praised it as an American classic that explores simplicity, harmony, and the savage beauty of nature. Robert Frost said, “In one book … he surpasses everything we have had in America.”
In a modern world that is obsessed with speed, newness, and wealth, Steel believes Thoreau’s story is more relevant and more needed than ever. However, Walden was written over 160 years ago, and Thoreau’s prose is difficult for many modern readers. From long sentences and paragraphs to outdated syntax and archaic words, Walden is weighed down by literary impediments and is slowly losing its place in our public consciousness as a result.
“While widely quoted, Walden is rarely read anymore, and our society’s familiarity with the story is fading,” according to Steel. “My theory is that there’s nothing wrong with the story. It’s the 19th century language that’s problematic. By creating an updated version of Walden, I want to create more opportunities for other people’s lives to be enriched by this book.”
Steel’s adaptation will be neither abridged nor dumbed down. It will still read and feel like Thoreau – none of the story will be omitted, and none of his ideas will be altered. Each word, phrase, and passage is being carefully weighed, researched, and edited for an optimal reading experience.
Steel notes that his project is largely about shortening the revision cycle so that literary classics like Walden remain contemporary. “From The Odyssey to Beowulf, there are thousands of wonderfully translated or updated classics out there. But most of the original texts grew old and inaccessible long before anyone did anything about it. By the time they were revived, no one outside of academia was reading them anymore. I think we can prevent this.”
To ensure that all editorial decisions honor both Thoreau and today’s reader, Steel has partnered with Billy Merrell, editor, poet, Lambda award-winning author, and contributor to the New York Times bestselling series Spirit Animals.
Steel’s hardcover edition will be designed to last for hundreds of years with proper care. From cover cloth to paper and ink, all of the materials will be high quality, archival, durable, and responsibly made. Thoreau was one of America’s first environmentalists, and out of respect for that legacy Steel will work with a printing company that uses 100%
“I want to make a new edition that is beautiful, timeless, and sturdy. Typography is the aesthetic heart of a book … and I’ve been working to ensure that this will be a comfortable and lively reading experience.”
The adaptation will be illustrated by a renowned artist Brooks Salzwedel. Salzwedel is creating four illustrations for the main sections in the book, a full-color map of Concord in Thoreau’s day, and marbled patterns for the endpapers and pull-quote pages.
The Kickstarter campaign will last 30 days, ending on March 16th. In return for pledges, backers can get their very own hardcover copies of the adaptation for $48. And a limited number of early backers can get it for the low price of $38.