... Cramer helps readers understand why Thoreau sought consolation from Emerson alone ... the abiding strength of the tie between the two writers emerges as an animating presence in both men’s journals and correspondence, which Cramer mines for quotations that allow each writer to give his own unmediated account of their friendship. That strength shines forth especially in the laments of a grieving Emerson assessing a world made narrower and darker by the premature death of his dear friend. An illuminating history of an exceptional friendship.
... an engaging account of the friendship between Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson ... Mr. Cramer hints that Thoreau’s iconoclasm, while frequently off-putting, reconnected the comfortably established Emerson with his rebel roots. That aspect of their relationship doesn’t quite come into focus here, since Mr. Cramer, not aspiring to a complete biography, says little about Emerson’s career before Thoreau.
... one of the things that immediately struck me about Solid Seasons is the patient mastery of an enormous body of work. Even in our era of digital Ctrl-F searching and algorithmic surface reading, the depth and breadth of Cramer’s research is astounding ... It’s as if his extensive footnotes aren’t enough — he gives the audience his unmediated archive. This makes for slow, repetitive reading ... But, as I came to appreciate, such slowness and repetition is the book’s point, its strength; and what subtle motion there is comes from Cramer’s patient layering of sources one atop the other. It’s tidal, and like water running downhill, the book slowly sifts and sorts and reshapes how we understand each man ... When I finally finished Solid Seasons, when I closed its cover and laid it on my floor, I felt a remarkable presence, even though I was alone. It’s an idiosyncratic book, a minimalist history, Thoreauvian in its desire to be just as it is, generous in the way it bares itself, full of trust that readers are smart enough to spin conclusions for themselves, and intense in its demand that they elevate themselves to the task.