DAILY PHOTO: Bare Tree on a Cemetery Hill

Taken in Westview Cemetery in the Autumn of 2021

BOOK REVIEW: A Transcendental Journey by Stephen Evans

A Transcendental JourneyA Transcendental Journey by Stephen Evans
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon.in Page

Release date [for 25th Anniversary ed.]: September 10, 2022

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A Transcendental Journey intersperses a quirky travelogue of a rambling road-trip through America with a book report on selected essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson. On a positive note, the book offers genuinely funny lines within a generally amusing wandering discussion of events, and there’s something authentic about the voice – you may find yourself hearing the words in the voice of someone you know (or a character) who is idiosyncratic and nerdy in a way that is not uncommon in America. I did. In addition to the funny lines, there are statements that feel profound and are definitely thought-provoking.

Some of the offbeat elements go a bit too far, reaching the point of distraction. For some reason, the author decided to note not only each time he drank a Coca-Cola, but the size of the beverage. At first, it’s just a bit of weirdness that seems to contribute to the aforementioned authentic voice, but eventually one is made sad by the idea that this guy is giving himself diabetes and involving you, as reader, in the process. I can’t say that the philosophy bit is particularly well integrated into the travelogue, and the author often seems like an Enlightenment guy more than a Transcendentalist. (Transcendentalism being an offshoot of Romanticism, a philosophy meant to counteract the perceived cold, hard rationality of Enlightenment thinking and take a more mystical / spiritual [though not necessarily religious] view of the world.) That said, I can’t fault an inability to keep these schools of thought in boxes, as my own philosophy and worldview are fairly ala carte. My point is just that someone who picked up the book expecting to have a clearer view of what distinguishes Transcendentalism from other philosophies might come away confused.

If you enjoy travelogues, particularly of the United States, you’ll find this book a fun read. If you’re familiar with the works of Emerson, I wouldn’t expect any deep philosophical insight, but there are some fine quotes and discussions to remind you of Emerson’s great ideas and beautiful language. (And there are certainly many varied insights to ponder.)

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DAILY PHOTO: Turtle on the Forest Floor

Taken in May of 2012 in Yellow River Park [Stone Mountain, GA]

DAILY PHOTO: Rushing Water

Taken in July of 2013 in Arabia Mountain Park, Georgia

DAILY PHOTO: Thunderbirds

Taken in the summer of 2018 at the Chicago Air & Water Show

DAILY PHOTO: A Few Prominent Buildings of Washington DC

The Whitehouse; Taken in May of 2009
Smithsonian Institution; May 2009
Library of Congress; May 2009
Lincoln Memorial; May 2009
Federal Reserve; May 2009