A passage about Thoreau’s Walden Pond from David Brook’s column in The New York Times, “The 2015 Sidney Awards, Part 2,” December 22
…For centuries Americans have been reading the hyper-individualistic purity of Henry David Thoreau’s life on Walden Pond – the way he cut himself off from crass commercialism and lived on a pure spiritual plane.
Writing in the New Yorker, Kathryn Schulz points out in “Pond Scum“ that Thoreau was a misanthropic, arrogant, self-righteous prig. He was coldhearted in the face of others’ suffering. Highly ascetic, he sustained the shallow American tendency to equate eating habits with moral health.
He tried philanthropic enterprises but found they did “not agree with my constitution.” Schulz accurately notes that Thoreau’s most famous sentence, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” is at once insufferable and absurd….