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New Audiobook Recording of Self-Reliance

In conjunction of a new edition of Self-Reliance, which is unfortunately interspersed with comments by other authors, breaking the flow of the text, there is also an audiobook version read by novelist and radio host Kurt Andersen. At just over 90 minutes, Andersen gives the essay a spirited read, but his narration is overly emphatic, and he reads just a bit too quickly, making it hard to follow this oft dense text.

It’s very hard to read Emerson – read out loud, I mean. His sentences are truculent and full of traps, and reading a text like Self-Reliance is as difficult as reciting Shakespeare. You may want to stress certain words, but you may find, as you go on, that they might not be the words that should get the most stress. Andersen overstresses the text; he puts too much stress on too many words, making the text a roller-coaster. I would think that a more sedate reading would be appropriate, allowing the words to speak for themselves; in many cases, I think the stress that Andersen uses is exaggerated and misplaced. But we don’t know exactly how Emerson gave his lectures, so any such reading is personal.

Nevertheless, having an audio version of Emerson’s keystone essay on my iPod is certainly nice, so I can listen to parts of it whenever I want. While there are a couple of other recording of Self Reliance, and of other Emerson essays, this is by far the best, in spite of my above comments. Had it been just a bit slower, and a bit less “gee whiz” at times, it would be nearly perfect.

(As an aside, Andersen’s Heyday is an interesting novel set in 1848. While it’s good but not great, Andersen did a lot of research about this period for the novel, and is well versed with the background of the times in which Emerson wrote Self-Reliance.)

Posted in: Essays on May 29, 2011 | No Comments »
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Some Excerpts from Nature

From Emerson’s essay Nature, published in 1836. Page references are to the Library of America volume of Essays and Lectures.

We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough. (LoA 15)

We are taught by great actions that the universe is the property of every individual in it. (LoA 16)

Nature is a sea of forms radically alike and even unique. A leaf, a sun-beam, a landscape, the ocean, make an analogous impression on the mind. (LoA 18)

Nothing is quite beautiful alone; nothing but is beautiful in the whole. (LoA 18)

Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind, and that state of the mind can only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture. (LoA 20)

Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is not reminded of the flux of all things? (LoA 21)

The instincts of the ant are very unimportant, considered as the ant’s; but the moment a ray of relation is seen to extend from it to man, and the little drudge is seen to be a monitor, a little body with a mighty heart, then all its habits, even that said to be recently observed, that it never sleeps, become sublime. (LoA 22)

A man’s power to connect his thought with its proper symbol, and so to utter it, depends on the simplicity of his character, that is, upon his love of truth, and his desire to communicate it without loss. (LoA 22)

How calmly and genially the mind apprehends one after another the laws of physics! What noble emotions dilate the mortal as he enters into the counsels of the creation, and feels by knowledge the privilege to BE! His insight refines him. The beauty of nature shines in his own breast. Man is greater that he can see this, and the universe less, because Time and Space relations vanish as laws are known. (LoA 27)

The moral influence of nature upon every individual is that amount of truth which it illustrates to him. (LoA 29)
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Posted in: Essays on September 6, 2010 | No Comments »
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