Thoreau in Phantom Bog – “Elementary”

July 2, 2015


Thoreau in Phantom Bog by B. B. Oak

Were I to write a book in which Henry David Thoreau, because of his observation skills takes on the role of Sherlock Holmes, I would focus on him, perhaps using his friend, the doctor Sam Weller, as a kind of Dr. Watson, maybe even borrow the format of one of the Doyle’s books. A terrible mistake.

B. B. Oak shows Thoreau by sharply focusing on his world: “When we went into the root cellar…we inhaled the earthy scent of root vegetables stored in racks along stone walls. The walls sloped toward an arched ceiling, and the dirt floor dipped toward a pit where apples form last fall were stockpiled between layers of straw. The rough plank door was open, and a thin light seeped into the cool darkness.”

The book presents an issue as central to Thoreau, as it should be for us today, the prejudiced treatment of Blacks. But it does this by paralleling it with that of a pregnant woman who feels as much discrimination against her as the runaway slave. The alternate chapters by herself and her doctor/lover, create and solve mysteries. And there are many, besides showing excellent background research, not only into history, but also into the science of medicine.

No, looking for solutions will keep you turning pages late into the night. And the end of the book reveals a mysticism beyond what people would ordinary accept from Thoreau, but it is not only poignant, but very pertinent in an original way.



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