WALKING THE DEAD DIAMOND RIVER
by EDWARD HOAGLAND
340 pages. Random House. $7.95.
Henry David Thoreau went into the woods to confront what he grandly called "the essential facts of life." Spartan-like, he observed flowers blooming, raindrops falling, seasons changing. Of course, the essential facts of Thoreau's life included Emerson's loan of the cabin site at Walden Pond and such genteel activities as frequent walks into Concord for civilized conversation and home cooking. H.D.T. had it both ways, which is more than can be said for the nature he wrote about. The shadow of the surveyor and his Damoclean plumb bob had already...