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  • Sun, 06 Jul 2014 07:26:01    Permalink


    Preface
    This is a book about a walk down the Connecticut River by a man who finds himself getting old, but not too old to walk. The ostensible purpose of his walk is scholarly, dignified, historical - the deconstruction of the legend of John Ledyard, who made a similar journey in 1773. But the walk might also be the man's final attempt to outdistance the "old" that will soon and forever after precede the "man" in reference to himself.     Stubbornly, he chooses to walk the river because John Ledyard (who actually sailed down it in a canoe) won fame for his extravagant pedestrian exploits. In the first half of the nineteenth century Ledyard was one of the most famous men in America, seemingly secure in the pantheon of founding fathers, frontiersmen and military heroes. By the end of the Civil War, however, Ledyard had been all but forgotten by the American people.     Now they seem to be remembering him again. Three new biographies of Ledyard have appeared since 2005, a phenomenon the old man finds strange. He finds Ledyard strange, and he finds the American people strange. There are moments when everything seems strange. This strangeness is exciting, as enticing as the frontier must have seemed to people of Ledyard's time. He reckons a prolonged walking meditation would be a way to plumb the strangeness of Ledyard and the strangeness of the country in which Ledyard found, then lost, then regained fame. He resolves to follow Ledyard's track down the Connecticut River into America.     His journey is undertaken not as an athletic dash, but in a series of fits, starts, leaps, reiterations, loops, gasps, and grabs over a period of years and a distance of less than one hundred fifty miles as the crow flies. The crow, of course, and the old man who aspires to be its avatar, hop rather than fly, being easily distracted by shining things, new sounds, the smell of meat, etc.  

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