Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On Enjoying Walden Two

       I read a couple of blog reviews on Walden Two, because I’m afraid I’m a horrible blogger and thought they might steer me in the right direction. To my surprise, all of the reviews I found were negative.

                There seemed to be three main reasons for not liking it.

1.       The book was just a medium through which B.F. Skinner expressed his views on behavioral psychology. It was too technical, and should have been an academic paper.

                I understand this point of view, but here is my issue with academic papers: They stay within academia. Had B.F. Skinner made Walden Two a paper instead of a novel, it probably would have been buried under a pile of other, more recent papers on behavioral psychology - forgotten to the world. And more importantly, it would have never reached the general public.

                All of the reviewers agreed that even if they thought Walden Two sucked, Skinner’s views were still interesting. Becoming aware of interesting ideas is an excellent reason to read a book.

                And aren’t most books mediums through which writers express their views? Skinner was certainly more direct than most writers, but this unashamed candidness was new, not unlikable.

                2. Creating an actual Walden Two isn’t possible because X, Y, and Z.

                Walden Two isn’t possible. Neither is the complete totalitarianism in 1984, or Hogwarts in Harry Potter. It’s fiction. This argument probably comes up with Walden Two, and not with my examples, because Skinner’s novel did sound so much like a debate in which his ideas ultimately triumphed. Some readers may be peeved by the unfairness of this - it's like playing a chess game with yourself and celebrating when you win. But does it matter? Even if Walden Two isn’t possible, the book is still useful for pointing out flaws in our society and providing a refreshing point of view.
                Reason 3: Too much bantering.
                Okay. This one I must agree with.

                I found this book to be thoroughly enjoyable. Certain lines made me crack up, and I developed a particularly odd crush on the haughty protagonist and creator of Walden Two, Frazier. Because some 90% of the text was dedicated to discussing the community in minute detail, it seemed unusually realistic; I felt very much a part of it. Also, it's triggered an interest in political philosophy. More on this later.

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