In Texas writer John Pipkin's excellent debut novel, "Woodsburner," the hardware store owner in 19th century Concord, Mass., points out the town eccentric and confides to another man, "I came upon him once in the woods, completely without clothes. Now what kind of a man does that?"
That would be Henry David Thoreau.
Thoreau was, first and foremost, a naturalist - in every sense of the word. In his nakedness, which Dickerson witnessed with obvious trepidation, the author of "Walden," one of the keystones of American thought, might have been preparing for another classic work, "Civil Disobedience."
Pipkin's Thoreau, however, is not the fiercely independent tax resister and abolitionist handed down to us through the ages. He is a young man who, at 26, "has accomplished little, and the burden of his empty history weighs heavily on him."
Pipkin catches Thoreau in an uncertain, though not unguarded moment, basing his novel on an actual event, when, on April 30, 1844, Thoreau set fire to Concord Woods. The conflagration, carelessly ignited during a dry, windy spring day that was to have culminated with a fresh fish chowder cooked in the woods, consumed 300 acres. The protector of nature became its destroyer, the dreaded and maligned "Woodsburner" of the title.
Causes John Pipkin Supports
Trust for Public Land
Writers' League of Texas