New York

Spencer Finch


Henry David Thoreau famously admonished that we too often lead lives of “quiet desperation.” His remedy was to live deeply and reflexively, sucking life’s “marrow,” and, if need be, communing with the Walden woods in the relative seclusion of meditative if quixotic faux isolation (he was literally a stone’s throw from his nearest neighbors). For Emily Dickinson, another archetypal American recluse, a purposeful and startlingly conscious life was to be found within the walls of her Amherst, Massachusetts, birthplace. In fifty-five years she rarely ventured out, communicating chiefly by means of cryptic notes and gnomic poems, of which, at the time of her death, only ten had been published.

For Spencer Finch, the charge to live simply and deliberately translates into vital pilgrimage rather than focused immobility. After forays to famous places including Vienna, Cape Canaveral, Loch Ness,

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.