RaveLaw & Liberty... episode after fascinating episode in the strange afterlife of Dante’s poetry and bones ... Perhaps not every episode covered in Raffa’s \'graveyard history\' really contributes to the invention of Italy, as the subtitle of the book proposes. But it’s an intensively researched, gripping story of Dante’s lively bones that also tells a brisk history of modern Italy ... Raffa keeps a detached historian’s eye on how Italian political figures used Dante to justify their own vision of the nation, the race, and the culture. But he is also an expert reader of Dante’s literature ... tells a fascinating story about the afterlife of a brilliant artist. But it also reveals how frequently political figures have distorted the man and his books ... Raffa’s excellent history indirectly shows that when we remake a work of literature in our own image, we may in fact be desecrating the author’s bones.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalThe author defends her choice to dwell at length on Thomas, but readers may wish the book quoted more personal testimony from other women. They will also notice the author’s insistence on 19th-century American marriage as \'a tool of politics and policymaking,\' especially when it came to African-American women. But they should remember that, under slavery, these women had no legal protections for their marriage and family relations, as Ms. McCurry herself acknowledges. That so many freed women embraced legal marriage suggests not merely a pragmatic acceptance of imposed gender norms but rather a taking back of a right they had long been denied.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalIn writings like Walden, Thoreau condemned the parasitic wealth and luxury that he said sap our lives and coined the famous maxim \'simplify, simplify.\' Two centuries after his birth, Thoreau’s challenge still grabs our attention: His spartan experiment of cabin living anticipated the growing tiny-house movement and has even spawned a videogame based on his life in the woods. It seems that America’s eccentric bachelor uncle and original minimalist is alive and well ... It is perhaps unfair to complain that a book about walking becomes, well, rambling. But Mr. Dann’s free association and esoteric cosmology send readers down a dizzying maze of rabbit holes. Across the loosely connected chapters, the author holds forth on everything from the errors of mythographer Joseph Campbell to cellphone addiction, from geological history to the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 film ... The Road to Walden ends without ever reaching Walden Pond. It closes instead with the author lost somewhere around Nagog Pond in the neighboring town of Acton. Thoreau famously endorsed getting lost in the woods, and we can see Mr. Dann suggesting, perhaps, that we are never done with our journey toward enlightenment. But the author’s ending is apt in another way—for we, as much as he, have become somewhat lost on our way to Walden, left only with a sense that Thoreau ought to inspire us to something and that Kevin Dann himself would make a fascinating traveling companion.