Fronting Onlys

Fronting Onlys

My 2-1/2 Cents Worth of Henry David Thoreau

Non-Fiction - Biography
154 Pages
Reviewed on 10/25/2017
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Maria Beltran for Readers' Favorite

Having read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond in high school, to the consternation of his teacher, Tom Beattie is obviously a Thoreau fan and Fronting Onlys is his unique tribute to the life and literary works of the 19th century essayist and poet. And in a series of funny and imaginative chapters, with “complemental” verses to match, he comes up with a hilariously funny book that is both highly entertaining and curiously informative. Beattie effortlessly brings the two-hundred-year-old transcendentalist author into a contemporary setting in his mock up interviews, which ironically highlight the fact that Thoreau’s writings still resonate, especially among the environmentally conscious, even in this modern era.

And in a way that can perhaps be described as plain cute, wise cute and abstract cute, Tom Beattie’s Fronting Onlys is a creative gem. It is absolutely not your usual biography that spews out facts and dates, often times neglecting the real person behind the story. Indeed, Beattie seems to resurrect Thoreau from the pages of his book into our living rooms or bedrooms, as the case may be. And it is just in time for the celebration of Thoreau’s 200th birthday anniversary, which is accompanied by the manic speed of the changes in our technology-driven way of life. Beattie’s creative writing style borders on the absurd and it turns out to be quite engaging and effective so that as we try hard to keep up with the rest of the world, Fronting Onlys will make us pause for a moment to take notice of the most important things in life.

Jack Magnus

Fronting Onlys: My 2-1/2 Cents Worth of Henry David Thoreau is a nonfiction biography written by Tom Beattie. Who was Henry David Thoreau, and why are there so many divergent opinions on the man, his character and his work? Beattie is one of the millions who found the man to be an inspiration. In this offbeat and humorous biography, Beattie starts by describing his initial confrontation with Thoreau and his iconic work, Walden, which occurred when he was in high school. Walden made such an impression on him that he eschewed classes and extracurricular activities in order to read it from cover to cover. In this biography, Beattie dispels some illusions many hold about the man, his cabin by the pond and his work. He reveals the somewhat surprising fact that Thoreau’s cabin was actually rather small and had very little in the way of modern conveniences, even for that time, and that he stayed there for far shorter a time than most believe. Beattie's book includes a number of marvelous photos and illustrations of the man, his house and an extremely photogenic woodchuck.

I must confess to having known very little about Henry David Thoreau and his book before reading Tom Beattie’s biographical work. I was, however, familiar with Beattie from his two previous books, Ad Majorem: A Gay Man’s Spiritual Testament and If I’d a Knowed: A Gay Writer Writes about Writing and Other Stuff, and vividly remembered how well Beattie wrote about the life and works of Ignatius of Loyola. Somehow, he had gotten past my lapsed Catholic resistance to anything relating to Catholicism and managed to get me intrigued and interested in his favorite saint. With that accomplishment already under Beattie’s belt, I figured I could think of no better biographer to introduce me to Thoreau and his classic work. I was right, of course. In his own inimitable style, Beattie made Thoreau come alive for me, complete with all his quirks and foibles. Beattie gently questioned any preconceptions I may have had about that author and, in his own wryly humorous and self-deprecating manner, began to share what he’d learned through his research, reading and personal pilgrimages to the site of Thoreau’s cabin and his grave. He even includes an exhaustive list of Sources just in case readers want to continue their own quest for the real Thoreau. Fronting Onlys: My 2-1/2 Cents Worth of Henry David Thoreau is most highly recommended.

Gisela Dixon

Fronting Onlys: My 2-1/2 Cents Worth of Henry David Thoreau by Tom Beattie was quite a surprise. I admit when I picked up the book, I wasn’t sure what to expect since the synopsis was not crystal clear about what the book was all about. It appeared to be about Henry Thoreau and about transcendentalism, both of which topics I am interested in, and hence I decided to read it and am glad I did! The book turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It happens to be a short biography of Henry David Thoreau, his life at Walden Pond, and his general philosophy toward life in general. Interspersed with this are “fictional” interviews that Tom conducts with people who provide a whimsical and thought-provoking perspective on Thoreau and just about life in general. Added to this mix are Tom’s own autobiographical experiences. Although this seems like a mixed bag, it oddly comes together very well and makes the book both entertaining and educational at the same time.

Fronting Onlys: My 2-1/2 Cents Worth of Henry David Thoreau by Tom Beattie is written well in a humorous, philosophical, and cynical tone all rolled into one. I loved the short extracts and sayings of Thoreau scattered throughout the book and how Tom is able to weave those into his own life experiences. There is also a cultural and social message in this book about the importance of nature, peace, and a non-judgmental attitude towards all. Having lived near Walden Pond and in that area myself made me appreciate the setting more. This is a short book that is a very engaging and unique read which I would highly recommend!

Erin Nicole Cochran

Tom Beattie's Fronting Onlys is a genius way of making one man’s life and words, Henry David Thoreau, a bit clearer to the rest of the world, in a conversational style as well as improvising scenarios that create a humorous undertone. It impresses upon us that Thoreau’s work is relevant to us in many aspects as a society today. Bits and pieces are scattered throughout the pages in a way that makes him present, as if he were simply down the street. Many quotes are layered into the narrative in such a way that the reader feels as though Thoreau is leaning over our shoulders as we read. The author “talks” back to some of Thoreau’s quotes in modern terms, which makes the piece three dimensional and will keep you chuckling. Be prepared for unexpected tears; those are coming for you too.

Fronting Onlys, a lovely, humorous non-fictional account by author Tom Beattie, has given me such a wonderful window into Thoreau that it’s hard to put into words how grateful that makes me feel. I loved the usage of the “#” in one of the headlines; it was so clever, and I wouldn’t have thought of it. I especially liked that the author included a link in regards to an organization that was founded to keep Walden’s Pond from being developed, and keeping it pure through donations. It makes the reader feel like more than just a reader, but a participant in Thoreau’s life themselves. The book is a great read, and one that you won’t be able to put down.