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Kessler depicts his developing intimacy with a handful of dairy goats and offers an enviable glimpse of the pastoral good life. Yet he also cautions, "Wherever the notion of paradise exists, so does the idea that it was lost. Paradise is always in the past." The title Goat Song is a literal rendering of the Greek word traghoudhia, tragedy. Reading it, I was reminded of Leo Marx's analysis of Thoreau's Walden. In The Machine in the Garden, Marx names Thoreau a tragic, if complex pastoralist. After failing to make an agrarian living raising beans for commercial trade (although his intent was always more allegorical than pecuniary), Thoreau ends Walden by replacing the pastoral idea where it originated: in literature. Paradise, Marx concludes, is not ultimately to be found at Walden Pond; it is to be found in the pages of Walden.
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