From the nightstand (The Brooklyn Follies ; Paul Auster):
No one ever talks about Poe and Thoreau in the same breath. They stand at opposite ends of American thought. But that’s the beauty of it. A drunk from the South… And a teetotaler from the North…. Poe was artifice and gloom of midnight chambers. Thoreau was simplicity and the radiance of the outdoors.
In their wildly idiosyncratic ways, each took it upon himself to reinvent America. In his reviews and critical articles, Poe battled for a new kind of native literature, an American literature free from English and European influences. Thoreau’s work represents an unending assault on the status quo, a battle to find a new way to live here. Both men believed in America, and both men believed that America had gone to hell, that it was crushed to death by an ever-growing mountain of machines and money. How was a man to think in the midst of all that clamor? They both wanted out….
For the fact was, America had indeed gone to hell. The country was split in two, and we all know what happened just a decade later. Four years of death and destruction. A human bloodbath generated by the very machines that were supposed to make us all happy and rich.