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1. Desert Solitaire
2. The Journey Home (Plume)
3. Hayduke Lives!: A Novel
4. A Voice Crying in the Wilderness
5. Down the River (Plume)
6. Edward Abbey: A Life
7. The Monkey Wrench Gang (P.S.)
8. The Fool's Progress: An Honest
9. One Life at a Time, Please
10. The Serpents of Paradise: A Reader
11. The Best of Edward Abbey
12. Abbey's Road
13. Black Sun: A Novel
14. Beyond the Wall: Essays from the
15. Postcards from Ed: Dispatches
16. Epitaph For A Desert Anarchist:
17. Fire on the Mountain
18. Good News: A Novel (Plume)
19. Brave Cowboy
20. Journeys of Simplicity: Traveling

1. Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey
Paperback: 288 Pages (1990-01-15)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$7.15
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0671695886
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description

When Desert Solitaire was first published in 1968, it became the focus of a nationwide cult. Rude and sensitive. Thought-provoking and mystical. Angry and loving. Both Abbey and this book are all of these and more. Here, the legendary author of The Monkey Wrench Gang, Abbey's Road and many other critically acclaimed books vividly captures the essence of his life during three seasons as a park ranger in southeastern Utah. This is a rare view of a quest to experience nature in its purest form -- the silence, the struggle, the overwhelming beauty. But this is also the gripping, anguished cry of a man of character who challenges the growing exploitation of the wilderness by oil and mining interests, as well as by the tourist industry.

Abbey's observations and challenges remain as relevant now as the day he wrote them. Today, Desert Solitaire asks if any of our incalculable natural treasures can be saved before the bulldozers strike again.Amazon.com Review
Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, the noted author's most enduring nonfiction work, is an account of Abbey's seasons as a ranger at Arches National Park outside Moab, Utah. Abbey reflects on the nature of the Colorado Plateau desert, on the condition of our remaining wilderness, and on the future of a civilization that cannot reconcile itself to living in the natural world. He also recounts adventures with scorpions and snakes, obstinate tourists and entrenched bureaucrats, and, most powerful of all, with his own mortality. Abbey's account of getting stranded in a rock pool down a side branch of the Grand Canyon is at once hilarious and terrifying. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (138)

5-0 out of 5 stars cowboy philosopher
ah yes.edward abbeydon't make like this any more. we're in the age of pc . can't decide if these are cowboy stories or classic lit.

elements of both i guess. good slice of life stories.here's someone who lived his life just as he saw fit. he loved the s.w. u.s. passionately.

here's some of his best observations of life in these united states circa 1970. we were still free.

well worth the time and money to read.you'll learn something.

look no caps ( i have decided that this uses fewer electrons and is thus better for the environment )he he ho ho

4-0 out of 5 stars Desert Solitare - a good read
Desert Solitare was recommended by an avid hiker since i was planning a hiking trip in Moab. Though the author has some radical thoughts you take them in stride as they are just personal commentary.He truly explains what it's like out there and teaches you about the desert and what's out there. Fun to read before you go.

5-0 out of 5 stars A flawed man - but nearly a perfect book
This is at once a hilarious and disturbing book - hilarious in that Abbey's flippant attitude and "I value nature more than mankind" take on life is refreshing and leads to a lot of awkward encounters; disturbing in that it highlights just how much environmental degradation North America has undergone. If Abbey was railing this angrily decades ago, one can only imagine what he'd say about today's state of affairs.

Many people who've written negative reviews here have taken digs at Abbey's less-than-perfect character and belief system, but let's start with the book itself.

Abbey undeniably has the gift of clarity. The genuine tenderness and reverence with which he evokes a lizard ducking behind a rock or storm clouds dumping a distant flash flood on the mesas rolling through the skies - it's really beautiful and evocative. You're THERE. The book consists of a great many loosely-connected chapters purportedly recounting "a season in the wilderness", when Abbey worked as park ranger at Arches National Monument in Utah. He explains that actually it was a couple of seasons, and various other anecdotes and trivia are thrown in throughout.

Abbey cooks lonely meals, watches the dust and clouds blow by, helps ranchers rack up their stray cows for extra cash, gets lost in the mesas, and generally treats naive and arrogant tourists with a good deal of spite. Along the way, we're treated to his views on our decaying civilization, which he feels is relentlessly smothering the few remaining 'wild' places on the continent - which is essentially undeniable. His greatest qualm seems to be with the 'automobilizing' of the National Park system - adding paved roads throughout many of the parks so that one can simply drive through and 'see it all' from the comfort of one's vehicle. I couldn't agree more with his tirades on this topic, and I think the 'criticisms' of it here are worthless. These places should be explore by the power of one's own two feet - or barring that, by horse or donkey, or even mountain bike; but not by station wagon, for God's sake!!! As Abbey himself so succinctly puts it, the ones who are too young and small to handle it - they'll have their chance soon! And those too old and infirm, well, they already had their chance! One reviewer on here self-righteously declared (to paraphrase): "Well, I would NEVER be so selfish as to deny handicapped people the pleasure of visiting the National Parks by removing the roads!" But this strikes me as absurd viewpoint: to cut roads into so many wonderful places, to pollute them and so drastically upset the ecological balance within, for the insanely small number of actually totally handicapped people who would thus benefit... it is just not a fair deal for nature. Besides, if the billions of dollars spent paving over natural areas and forcing nature not to reclaim these roads by maintaining were, say, dedicated to research on better prostheses, cures for motor-impairment diseases, and improved BCI's (brain-computer interfaces, which promise to eventually allow even paraplegic or 'locked-in' individuals to manipulate various means of robotic conveyance merely using their thoughts), this problem would probably have been solved by now.

Actually, considering how little actually happens in the book, it is a thrilling and addictive read. Abbey's solitary walk in the desert is enthralling, the way he writes it.

Some people have pegged Abbey as a cynical old hypocrite, and in some ways this can't be denied. HE wants to enjoy the spaces, but OTHER people are just 'the masses', they just get in the way of his peace and quiet. He wants to remove all the roads from wilderness areas, but then takes off on the weekend and drives right into just such a place to relax on his time off. Etc. But I feel that if we're honest with ourselves, deep down everyone feels that way about nature, or travel, or what have you. Everyone wants to do these things, but they always find it getting spoiled to a greater or lesser degree by all the 'other people' in the parks, or all the 'tourists' on their foreign adventure - failing to recognize that everyone else, we are those 'other people' and those 'other tourists.' I think everyone is guilty of this.

One final note on the infamous rabbit incident: yes, Abbey senselessly kills a small rabbit, but it is an accident. He is imagining what his situation would be if he were truly trapped and lost in the wilderness with nothing but his bare hands: would he be able to eat, to survive? He picks up a rock and tries to bean a rabbit just to experiment and to his great surprise actually nails it and kills it, though he's not lost or hungry. He walks away feeling a strong 'sense of power' but I don't think this is a reference to his blood lust - it is the sense of power and confidence he gained from realizing that even with no tools or equipment to his name he could potentially survive on his own skills and wits. That's how I interpreted this scene, in any case.

True, Abbey can be a cantankerous old bast*rd, but I gotta say I like his style. I think he is fundamentally correct that the environment must come first, and human needs (and especially human wants and comforts) come in a distant second. After all, if we keep putting ourselves first, where exactly are we going to be living this 'better life' if we wreck our habitat along the way?

5-0 out of 5 stars The place of human beings in nature
Desert Solitaire is not a new book. However, it speaks to major issues, namely the proper relationship between human beings and nature. It is true that in general our vision is too anthroprocentric,: We are considering ourselves as much too important. In this process of our exaggerated self-importance, we tend to disturb nature and destroy the planet that is our home. Abbey provides a corrective to that faulty vision and adds much to our appreciation of nature and our ability to see it in terms of its own beauty and not its utility to us. His description of the beauty of the wilderness and the canyonlands is rich. Abbey's tone can be abrasive, but his argument is sound. He is well read in literature and philosophy, and his arguments have a philosophical bent.

5-0 out of 5 stars Made me want to head straight to the desert...
Just finished reading Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. I like to think of them as essays by a curmudgeon who truly celebrated the wild and being out in it. Alone but hardly lonely, here was a man who cared deeply for our wildest places and wrote about them as he lived in them: passionately. A true conservationist, we could all learn from him and his desire to keep the natural places as they are. Keep the motorized vehicles to a minimum in National Parks. Keep the paved roads out. Get out of our refrigerated boxes and breathe the fresh air and have a look around! Walk and actually see the beauty that surrounds you!

Whether he was writing about rafting down the Colorado River before it changes forever due to the addition of another dam, or his "ownership" of the arches at the end of his first summer as a park ranger at Arches National Monument, you feel every bit of his fierce desire to protect the land coming through in every word. You feel his kinship with every tree, rock and tumbleweed that he comes across, every snake he brings into his camper to take care of the mouse population.

I am grateful for his words, his many pilgrimages, his anger and his willingness to show it. It is the fierce protectors who are the guardians and stewards of this beautiful land.

He is one minute cranky environmentalist and the next touching wordsmith. "If no one is looking for you write your will in the sand and let the wind carry your words and signature east to the borders of Colorado and south to the pillars of Monument Valley - someday, never fear, your bare elegant bones will be discovered and wondered and marveled at."

This is a great collection of essays which I recommend. I look forward to reading more of his work. ... Read more

2. The Journey Home (Plume)
by Edward Abbey
Paperback: 256 Pages (1991-01-30)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$8.55
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0452265622
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Long considered an underground classic, The Journey Home stands beside Desert Solitude as one of Abbey's most important works. In a voice edged eith chagrin, Abbey offers a portrait of the American West that readers will not soon forget, presenting the reflections and observations of a man who left the urban world behind in pursuit of the natural one and the myths buried therein.Amazon.com Review
"I am not a naturalist. I never was and never will be anaturalist." So Ed Abbey opens The Journey Home, a collectionof essays that turns every page or two to some aspect of the naturalhistory of the desert West. Abbey had recently been compared to HenryThoreau as a writer who had made a home both literary and real in thewild, and he was having none of it: he wanted to be thought of as anovelist and environmental activist, not as the author of gentleessays on self-sufficiency and the turn of the seasons. The JourneyHome is thus full of politically charged, often enraged essays onsuch matters as urban growth ("The Blob Comes to Arizona"), thegentrification of the small-town West ("Telluride Blues--A HatchetJob"), and wilderness preservation ("Let Us Now Praise MountainLions"). He raised a few hackles with this book, but he also foundmany devoted readers, fans who wanted and got an update of andrejoinder to Abbey's DesertSolitaire. Agree with him or not, you can't fault Abbey forhis honest self-assessment: "I am--really am--an extremist," he wrote,"one who lives and loves by choice far out on the very verge ofthings, on the edge of the abyss, where this world falls into thedepths of the other. That's the way I like it." --GregoryMcNamee ... Read more

Customer Reviews (13)

5-0 out of 5 stars Abbey's books
I purchased both Desert Solitaire and The Journey Home by Edward Abbey as gifts for friends, having read both and loved them. These are both American classics as far as I am concerned and anyone who loves the southwest, has traveled there,wants to travel there, or even is an armchair traveler must read at least one of them.

Each chapter is a short story, each short story is a picture within a mural that represents a time, purely Americana.

5-0 out of 5 stars Austere
The American West can be a harsh land of beauty and contrasts.There can be blistering heat and fierce blizzards separated by the span of only a few hours.Some of the World's most beautiful places mingle with landscapes far less sublime in a fascinating quilt work.

Edward Abbey has captured much the intriguing starkness of these wonderful places in The Journey Home.The book is a collection of essays, many of which were published separately of times and lands clearly dear to his heart.As such, I'm sure that different essays will strike different emotional chords with different readers depending upon her or his prior background or experiences, but as a whole, this is a work of haunting, Spartan beauty.

For me, his reminiscence of hitchhiking through the West in 1944 (Hallelujah on the Bum), `The Second Rape of the West', his wonderful descriptions in `Down the River with Major Powell', `Mountain Music', and `Freedom and Wilderness' rank among the best writing in its genre.Many of these describe places dear to my own heart and are written in a harsh simplicity that evokes strong emotion.Perhaps the strongest work in the book, though, is `Death Valley', an essay written so tellingly that I feel that I already know a part of the valleys character even though I've never been near its desiccated surfaces.

This is not a perfect work.Some of the essays do not reach the heights of those noted above but that mirrors in many ways the very nature of the West.Edward Abbey lived his life without apology, and here has created a wonderful collection of essays describing a land that he and so many others have deeply loved.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Great read by a fantastic author.Haven't been disappointed by anything written by Abbey.

3-0 out of 5 stars A few gems from Edward Abbey
"The Journey Home" is a collection of 22 essays by Edward Abbey originally published in 1977. While Abbey and I are kindred spirits in lamenting the destruction and desecration of the natural world, the collection on the whole is only moderately satisfying.

Abbey is at his best when he combines his deeply personal recollections with a narrative thread. He accomplishes this best in "Hallelujah on the Bum" (retelling his hitchhiking and train-hopping trip from Pennsylvania to the West Coast and back in 1944), "Down the River with Major Powell" (an account of Abbey and two friends' trip down the Green River in Utah 101 years after John Wesley Powell made the first exploratory trip), and the second half of "Mountain Music" (in which Abbey recounts a climb to the knife-edged col between Mt. Wilson and Wilson Peak in Colorado). I also loved the three-page "Shadows from the Big Woods," but that's because it struck a particularly personal chord with me, but does not follow the "personal narrative" pattern of the other three excellent essays.

Slightly less effective are five other essays: "Disorder and Early Sorrow" (a very humorous recounting an ill-advised and ill-fated trip in a passenger car on an abandoned jeep track in Big Bend National Park in 1952), "Death Valley," "Manhattan Twilight, Hoboken Night" (written about the time Abbey spent in Hoboken, NJ, before the city became gentrified), "The Crooked Wood," and "Freedom and Wilderness."

Abbey stumbles in the remainder of the 13 contributions when he tries to be a naturalist and when he laments the loss of natural places. He's certainly spot on about his sentiments, but the essays come across as cynical and snide. Some are also outdated, especially "Return to Yosemite: Tree Fuzz vs. Freaks" and the longest contribution, "The Second Rape of the West" about strip mining for coal.

The book's only 239 pages long (in the hardcover edition I read) so it's not a major commitment. Plus, the great essays are gems to be savored.But, there's much that readers will find less enthralling.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Journey Home
As usual Abbey was brilliant. It was one of the best novels I ever read. ... Read more

3. Hayduke Lives!: A Novel
by Edward Abbey
Paperback: 308 Pages (1991-09-04)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$6.45
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316004138
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
This superb sequel to The Monkey Wrench Gang, the novel that was called "ribald, outrageous, and, in fact, scandalous" by Smithsonian, is finally available in paperback. Hayduke, an ex-Green Beret and "wilderness avenger," was last seen hanging from a cliff, under fire from both a helicopter and a posse. Now he's back, fighting against the despoilers of the earth.Amazon.com Review
Ed Abbey's 1975 novel, The Monkey WrenchGang, ended with a classic--and literal--cliffhanger: it leftits hero, George Washington Hayduke III, clinging to a sheer rock facein the wilds of Utah as an armed posse hunted him down for hiseco-radicalist crimes. Hayduke Lives! allows the grizzledVietnam veteran another day in the sun, reunited with his old comradesDoc Sarvis, Seldom Seen Smith, and Bonnie Abbzug to battle the world'sbiggest earthmoving machine, the aptly named GOLIATH. Their principalfoe, apart from that behemoth, is the fundamentalist preacher DudleyLove, the mastermind behind uranium mines, power plants, and otherinsults to Abbey's beloved desert. Abbey has great fun lampooning thepretensions of environmental activists, New Agers ("vee put flowers onzee Big Bucket, vee put flowers on zee driver's neck and hug heem?her? it? and kiss and luff and squeeze and make GOLIATH stop," saysone starry-eyed European crystal gazer), and developers alike as heunfolds his tale of a motorized Wild West and its latter-day outlawheroes. As full of improbable situations and noisy politics asMonkey Wrench Gang, Hayduke Lives! proves to be greatfun for readers as well. --Gregory McNamee ... Read more

Customer Reviews (20)

5-0 out of 5 stars Just fine.
Looks like a library book. Quality of the book is fine though. Took some time to ship, but was not pressed to get it quickly.

5-0 out of 5 stars Hayduke Lives Indeed
Edward Abbey hits gold with this "sequel" to "The Monkeywrench Gang".Abbey continues writing in such a way that draws the reader into the story like few authors can.A must read for anyone looking for a quick read with a good message.

3-0 out of 5 stars You'll want to enjoy this Monkey Wrench Gang sequel more than you actually do...
Edward Abbey's classic and influential book, The Monkey Wrench Gang, stimulated the creation of a unique form of environmental activism (Earth First!) and produced a target for all anti-environmentalist ire.In The Monkey Wrench Gang, George Hayduke, Doc Sarvis, Seldom Seen Smith, and Bonnie Abbzug graduate from cutting down view-polluting signs to attempted dam blowing.In the end, they seem to leave direct action behind, but Hayduke's fate is less certain.

In Hayduke Lives!, the gang reemerges, somewhat reluctantly, to protect the southern Utah desert and her desert tortoises from an enormous earthmoving machine, GOLIATH. Guess who David is?

Ed Abbey's last story (he died before this was published) seems uneven in many places, with Abbey trying to develop an action story in some places and preaching "Abbey-esque" in others.Abbey probably had a vision of his own mortality as he was writing this, and seems to reflect on themes common in much of his western journals:women, the desert, love, Mormons, environmental protection, and women.The recent books on Edward Abbey note his meticulous rewriting.This book seems to have lacked this editorial artistry.

He pontificates throughout, but this novel fails to deliver the memorable scenes I expect from his activist rantings.However, here are a few of my favorites:

"'Park?' [LDS bishop and developer] Love frowned.He scowled.He growled, 'Ginny, you know we been parked to death in Utah, Arizona.One thing we don't need is no more goldang national parks or even state parks or goddamn wilderness pre-serves.Pardon my French but doggone, Ginny, you know and I know a park attracts them environ-meddlers and Sahara [sic] Clubbers like a dead horse draws blowflies.Nosir, we don't need no more parks, we need industry.Jobs.People.I'll take people over rocks and cactus any day and I don't care who hears me say it'" (p. 135).

"The unwritten rule of the range was 'always leave gates as you find them.'Doc found them more attractive in the open position.Someday, he thought, we'll drive all these stinking public-lands cattle onto the highways, where they belong, herd them back to Texas, where they come from, feed them to the alligators, where they'll serve a purpose.Force the ranchers off the welfare roles" (p. 169).

When Bishop Love is discussing his proposal for wife number 2 with wife number 1, and wife number 1 mentions "evolution", Bishop Love is perplexed.Where did she get these ideas?"Has this woman been hangin' around the library lately?Never did trust that new librarian we got now.She's Mormon, of course, but too young for a dangerous position like that.And she didn't even go to Brigham Young.Went to Utah State.In Logan.Hotbed of beer drinking and anti-Christ and atheism and English majors..." (p. 217).Abbey actually did spend a short period of time at Utah State, in the English Department, so he should know!

So this is an important book to read if you follow the "evolution" of Edward Abbey as a writer and an activist.You really want to read The Monkey Wrench Gang before you read Hayduke Lives!And you want to minimize your expectations of Hayduke Lives!

"...found them more attractive in the open position."Abbey all the way!

5-0 out of 5 stars A must for monkeywrenchers
Damn fine novel. A comabtive and comic work from the "Desert Anarchist". Find out where all that "Hayduke Lives!" grafiti is coming from.

5-0 out of 5 stars Edward Abbey's Legacy...Great Literature and a Greater Appreciation for the American Southwest...And the Glen Canyon Dam
The name Edward Abbey is a foul couple of words for some, and is followed by foul language off the tongue of the same people. But, it shouldn't...both for his great body writings and for his fierce appreciation for everything that makes the American West great. "The Monkey Wrench Gang" and its sequel "Hayduke Lives" are classic American Literature as well as important social commentary on who we are and what should matter to us as a society and a country. (This review is for both books so might be a bit longer than usual.)

Yes, Abbey was an environmentalist; but, a he was also flawed just as we all are in this area - when he was younger on his first visit to the Grand Canyon, he rolled a tire over the edge because he could. He already appreciated the American West, but the human side of him did it anyway. Yes, Abbey was a curmudgeon; but, it worked - he got the attention of everyone, on both sides of any issue.

With "The Monkey Wrench Gang", Abbey spun a fantastic tale of a hodgepodge band of characters that were bound by a love for the west, and distaste for anything that they saw as ruining it. Bonnie Abbzug, the exile from the east who couldn't stand cheap talk and always wanted action; she found a place in the canyons of the Southwest where one could hear her own thoughts - unlike the canyons of New York that she fled. Doc Sarvis, M.D., a doctor with a passion for his hobby - the burning of any billboard that ruined everyone's view of the landscape (which were pretty much all of them). Seldom Seen Smith, a few wives, a Colorado River Boatman, and a few steps ahead of the Bishop...'nuff said.

And then there is George Washington Hayduke III...this former Green Beret will not stop until he gets to the bottom of who is messing with his desert; and he intends to put a stop to it. I had a college professor like Hayduke.

At its heart, "The Monkey Wrench Gang" is a buddy movie written in words' a buddy movie about the American West. An American West that is being overrun by those fleeing the east and looking for more space and a better life, but cannot but help but bring everything wrong with where they are coming from with them; at the same time, this is a book about those entrenched in the west for generations that can't control themselves when it comes to growth, progress, and the American Way: GREED. This is a book about those who care enough about the human race to actually do something to keep it from destroying itself. This is a book about the self-determined people of the west; a group that sometimes loses its way - a fear of the decadence of East (and California), but who can't help but let a little greed get in they way of their way of live as they build and build and build to accommodate the every expanding needs of the new exiles from more crowded locales.

"The Monkey Wrench Gang" is a book about a system gone wrong and a band of idealists looking for a way to head it off at the pass before it plummets over the edge into the abyss.

As much as "The Monkey Wrench Gang" is a book about idealists, "Hayduke Lives" is a pessimistic book about idealism gone a little wrong. "Hayduke Lives" was Abbey's last book, and it was his last will and testament in a way as well. For all that "The Monkey Wrench Gang" inspired a generation of environmentalists, "Hayduke Lives" is Abbey's critique of the fourteen years that come in between. He is critiquing what he sees is a movement that has lost its way; not just his views of where the Sierra Club went wrong, but also how Earth First! stumbled and fumbled their way off the right path. But, at the same time, Abbey is screaming for us to find our way and find a balance before it is too late.

I think that while "The Monkey Wrench Gang" is universal in its message and unambiguous - a message that everyone, environmentalist and developer alike, can learn from - "Hayduke Lives" is more philosophical and introspective...introspective for the reader as well as Abbey. In "Hayduke Lives", Abbey's message is more subtle and more undefined. What I came away with was his disgust and disappointment with a movement wandering the wilderness lost; but at the same time, I found a message of hope between the lines, a message that we better find a way to get along and work together or destroy each other and ourselves.

In the end, these two books must be judged by each individual reader; the reader must find their own path to meaning and purpose in Abbey's words. Glen Canyon Dam, at the focus of both books, is a monstrosity to some and a godsend to others; to some, it has destroyed a magnificent canyon, and to others it has made unchecked progress in the west possible. The real answer, I think, is somewhere in between.

If you advocate for the dismantling of the dam, then be honest about what that actually means: that overgrown metropolises in the dry desert such a Phoenix and Las Vegas will have to cease to exist; that people in Ohio won't get good, fresh lettuce in the winter; that first people must understand what John Wesley Powell tried to tell everyone well over 100 years ago...the American West cannot support a limitless supply of humanity, that the American West has a FINITE amount of water to go around. Until everyone affected understands what is truly at stake, then the message of tearing down the dam is empty and hollow...and maybe a bit self-centered.

If you fight to defend the dam, fine, but check your own greed (five bedrooms and 3000 square feet for a husband, wife, and two kids is greed - how many storage units do you rent for all of your stuff?). Yes, the dam has brought progress to the American West, but at what cost? What is the carrying capacity of the West? Are we approaching it? Has it passed us by and we are just waiting for it all to collapse? How low does Lake Powell need to go next time before we wake up and realize that water is not a limitless resource in the arid west?

Glen Canyon Dam was built before I was born; but, if the effort were being made today to build it, I would fight with all of my energy - resistance is never futile. But, it is there and nothing that I do, or the Sierra Club does, or the Glen Canyon Institute does will change that...not without educating Americans to what we are doing wrong and how we can do it right. Geologic time will take care of Glen Canyon Dam; it could be in 200 years, 500 years, 1,000 years, or longer, but it will remove the dam - larger natural dams have existed across the Colorado River and nature has always removed them eventually.

Read these two books. Read the writings of John Wesley Powell. Visit the area, tour the dam, and figure it out for yourself. Then, lets all figure it out together.


A Guide to my Book Rating System:

1 star = The wood pulp would have been better utilized as toilet paper.
2 stars = Don't bother, clean your bathroom instead.
3 stars = Wasn't a waste of time, but it was time wasted.
4 stars = Good book, but not life altering.
5 stars = This book changed my world in at least some small way. ... Read more

4. A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (Vox Clamantis in Deserto): Notes from a Secret Journal
by Edward Abbey
Paperback: 128 Pages (1990-08-15)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$2.89
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312064888
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
For the first time in softcover, Edward Abbey's last book, a collection of unforgettable barbs of wisdom from the best-selling author of The Monkey Wrench Gang.

Notes from a Secret Journal

Edward Abbey on:

Government-"Terrorism: deadly violence against humans and other living things, usually conducted by a government against its own people."

Sex-"How to Avoid Pleurisy: Never make love to a girl named Candy on the tailgate of a half-ton Ford pickup during a chill rain in April out of Grandview Point in San Juan County, Utah."

New York City-"New Yorkers like to boast that if you can survive in New York, you can survive anywhere. But if you can survive anywhere, why live in New York?"

Literature-"Henry James. Our finest lady novelist."
... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars Edward Abbey Stood for What He Loved.
Wonderful little book of insights, thoughts, and quotations by Edward Abbey. Small enough to be in reach whenever you need to fill up your head with some commonsense. It is full of Abbeys' biting observations on life, love, his love of the desert, and his country.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Portable Ed Abbey
I fundamentally disagree with Edward Abbey on many of the core beliefs that inform his worldview. Nonetheless, I can't help but admire the man. A writer of immense wit and talent, Abbey's "Notes from a Secret Journal" is a collection of aphorisms, words of wisdom, and plain old thoughts that he compiled near the very end of his 62 years.

These sayings are categorized in subjects such as "On Nature", "Science and Technology", and "Government and Politics". The aphorisms run the gamut fromborderline genius to incessantly meaningless. Still, it can't be denied that there is a strong intuitive strain that runs through Abbey's work here. The sheer simplicity of his intuition was the source of Abbey's occaisional brilliance. The man was not pretentious. He didn't put on airs, was crass at times, and spit in the direction of the Ivory Tower intellectuals. Yet, Abbey was highly intellectual himself and left Yale on his own accord due to disgust with Ivy League stuffiness. He was a self described redneck and an intellect for the common man. His love for the simple truths of reality are expressed in his distaste for overly conceptualized modes of thought. He expresses this on page 3:

"I hate intellectual discussion. When I hear the words phenomenology or structuralism, I reach for my buck knife."

Such was the style of Ed Abbey. He, as a thinking man, serves to remind us all that too often intellectuals and philosophers, instead of seeking a greater understanding of reality, seek to play mental gymnastics that end up running in the opposite direction. Abbey brings thinking back down to Earth, back down to humanity. That said, the man could take this view too far and end up superficial as his distate for metaphysics shows.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this book and all of Edward Abbey's books. "A Voice Crying in the Wilderness" is both aggravating and charming, but always engaging. Ed's was a voice that is desperately need in today's world of aristocratic intellectual snobbery and superficial fixation with credentialism. Abbey shows how the common man is often a fount of radical wisdom.

5-0 out of 5 stars Abbey gems... quips and thoughts extracted from his journals
Edward Abbey kept a journal throughout his adult life.Toward the end of that life, he collated some of the "fragments" from these journals.He wrote the introduction two weeks before he died on March 14th, 1989.

In this introduction he wrote, " An isolate voice, crying from the desert.'Vox clamantis in deserto' is a role that few care to play, but i find pleasure in it.The voice crying from the desert, with its righteous assumption of enlightenment, tends to grate on the nerves of the multitude.But it is mine" (p. xi).

So whether you find this collection of fragments grating, healing, funny, or inspirational, it is all Ed Abbey.

Below is a sampling of what you can expect.

"Whatever we cannot easily understand we call God; this saves much wear and tear on the brain tissues" (p. 3).

Christian theology: nothing so grotesque could possibly be true" (p. 3).

"From the point of view of a tapeworm, man was created by God to serve the appetite of the tapeworm" (p. 4).

"Mormonism: Nothing so hilarious could possibly be true.Or all bad" (p. 5).

"Society is like a stew.If you don't keep it stirred up, you get a lot of scum on top" (p. 21).

"In a nation of sheep, one brave man forms a majority" (p. 25).

"Truth is always the enemy of power.And power the enemy of truth" (p. 27).

"There has never been an 'original' sin: each is quite banal" (p. 35).

"I have found through trial and error that I work best under duress.In fact, I work only under duress" (p. 38).

"As a confirmed melancholic, I can testify that the best and maybe only antidote for melancholia is 'action'.However, like most melancholics, I suffer also from sloth" (p. 43).

"If my decomposing carcass helps nourish the roots of a juniper tree or the wings of a vulture - that is immortality enough for me.And as much as anyone deserves" (p. 44).

"I intend to be good for the rest of my natural life - if I live that long" (p. 49).

"I've never yet read a review of one of my own books that I couldn't have written much better myself" (p. 53).

"The best thing about graduating from the university was that I finally had time to sit on a log and read a good book" (p. 54).

"It is always dishonest for a reviewer to review the author instead of the author's book" (p. 60).

"Most of what we call the classics of world literature suggest artifacts in a wax museum.We have to hire and pay professors to get them read and talked about" (p. 64).

"Whenever I see a photograph of some sportsman grinning over his kill, I am always impressed by the striking moral and esthetic superiority of the dead animal to the live one" (p. 69).

"As between the sulking and furtive poacher, who hunts for the sake of meat, and the honest gentleman shooter, who kills for the pleasure of sport, I find the former a higher type of humanity" (p. 69).

"How to Avoid Pleurisy: Never make love to a girl named Candy on the tailgate of a half-ton Ford pickup during a chill rain in April out on Grandview Point in San Juan County, Utah" (p. 79).

"I come more and more to the conclusion that wilderness, in America or anywhere else, is the only thing left that is worth saving" (p. 82).

"If wilderness is outlawed, only outlaws can save wilderness" (p. 85).

"I'm in favor of animal liberation.Why?Because I'm an animal" (p. 85).

"If people persist in trespassing upon the grizzlies' territory, we must accept the fact that the grizzlies, from time to time, will harvest a few trespassers" (p. 86).

"In all of nature, there is no sound more pleasing than that of a hungry animal at its feed.Unless you are the food" (p. 86).

"One thing more dangerous than getting between a grizzly sow and her cub is getting between a businessman and a dollar bill" (p. 97).

"Why administrators are respected and schoolteachers are not: An administrator is paid a lot for doing very little, while a teacher is paid very little for doing a lot" (p. 101).

"A rancher is a farmer who farms the public lands with a herd of four-legged lawn mowers" (p. 103).

"The rancher strings barbed wire across the range, drills wells and bulldozes stock ponds everywhere, drives off the elk and antelope and bighorn sheep, poisons coyotes and prairie dogs, shoots eagles and bear and cougar on sight, supplants the native bluestem and gramma grass with tumbleweed, cow [manure], cheat grass, snakeweed, anthills, poverty weed, mud and dust and flies - and then leans back and smiles broadly at the Tee Vee cameras and tells us how much he loves the West" (p. 105).

"The highest treason, the meanest treason, is to deny the holiness of this little blue planet on which we journey through the cold void of space" (p. 109).

Want more?Time to get yourself a copy of this book.Enjoy.

5-0 out of 5 stars Bumpersticker Abbey!!
A great service was provided Edward Abbey fans with the publication of this marvelous little tome. Now we anarchists have a handy source of short bits by Abbey to plaster on our webpages, our mail, and even our car bumpers! Up with nature, down with Empire!

4-0 out of 5 stars 4.5 is closer to it.
This is not Abbey's grand work nor was it intended to be.This is a small collection of one-liners and pithy observations of a highly talented, self-admitted misanthrope."Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell" is a prime example.

Abbey was a truck riding good ole boy and was about as politically correct as a punch to the head.His backpack was not designed by Gucci and his boots were mostly army surplus but he spent a life time outdoors, not behind a desk finding fault.His writings, his actions and his public appearances brought more awareness of nature and its plight to the public than did the combined number of his critics by a factor of 1000.

Borne just before the depression, he did not see all wild game as Bambi or Thumper but, as a child, watched as his father hunted for the table. Abbey may not be for everyone, but, by the same token, neither is Mr. Rogers. ... Read more

5. Down the River (Plume)
by Edward Abbey
Paperback: 256 Pages (1991-01-30)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$9.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0452265630
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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"Be of good cheer," the war-horse Edward Abbey advises, "the military-industrial state will soon collapse."This sparkling book, which takes us up and down rivers and across mountains and deserts, is the perfect antidote to despair.

Along the way, Abbey makes time for Thoreau while he takes a hard look at the MX missile system, slated for the American West. "For 23 years now I've been floating rivers.Always downstream, the easy and natural way. The way Huck Finn and Jim did it, LaSalle and Marquette, the mountain men, and Major Powell."

"Abbey's the original fly in the ointment. Give him money and prizes. Don't let anything happen to him." --Thomas McGuane ... Read more

Customer Reviews (9)

5-0 out of 5 stars A paradise lost, and a civilization headed in the same direction
Abbeys prose are strong, harsh, and often humorous.The title story portrays an early journey down the Colorado river through a splendid canyon that has since been buried by Lake Powell. It is a great adventure, but the story goes far beyond the whitewater and beautiful scenery. The brilliant style portrays a deep love of the natural world and a horror for what is happening to it in the name of greed and stupidity. Dancing on the Edge of an Endangered Planet

4-0 out of 5 stars It's an Okay book by Abbey
I have read many of Abbey's non-fiction books, but I don't think any of them matches the coherence (as in theme) and consistency (as in quality) of Desert Solitaire. Abbey himself thinks "Down the River" is better than Desert Solitaire, but I think otherwise. A recurring problem with Abbey's later books is that they are collections of his essays written over a span of years, some already published in other magazines and books, this rather makes them disjointed, and the quality of the essays sometimes vary a great degree too.

Nevertheless, the first essay in this book, "Down the River with Henry Thoreau" is one of my favorite of Abbey's writing. It weaves a river rafting journey with a review of Thoreau's life and work, the format is quite original (although I suspect it had been used before) and refreshing. Other essays in this book are not nearly as impressive.

A side note: this book does not include an essay about "rafting Glen Canyon before it was dammed". That is the essay "Down the River" (which is itself a beautiful piece) in Desert Solitaire, don't get them confused. Also, "The Damnation of a Canyon" in "Beyond the Wall" touches on the topic as well.

4-0 out of 5 stars Several good essays about the West
I don't believe this is Edward Abbey's best work, but it is a nice collection of several very well-written essays.
The book includes good examinations of the issue of silt in Lake Powell and a decent look at the Colorado River hermit Bert Loper.
It's a great book to read on river, or in the desert, and Abbey's salty character comes through in every page--though the book does drag a little toward its end.

5-0 out of 5 stars An addventurs book that you will love!
Many things I liked about this book was that it had alot of addventure and excitment. The characters always have exciting attitude's. Jessice is the main character she is 15 and only has a dad. She gets along with all group members once she gets to meet them.
One of the things I didn't like about this book was that they really didn't tell about their home lives much. like why pug was sent to this camp.
P.S. For the most part I thought that this book was extoridanory.

5-0 out of 5 stars drifting along Ed's river
As a longtime Abbey fan, down the river is as powerful and exciting as any.The stories capture the imagination, and are filled with flowing, humorous, forceful prose. a gem to read! ... Read more

6. Edward Abbey: A Life
by James M. Cahalan
Paperback: 357 Pages (2003-04-01)
list price: US$19.95 -- used & new: US$6.52
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0816522677
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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He was a hero to environmentalists and the patron saint of monkeywrenchers, a man in love with desert solitude.A supposed misogynist who counted women among his closest friends.A writer who attracted a cult following but was often uncomfortable with it.James Cahalan has written a definitive biography of a contemporary literary icon whose life was a web of contradictions.Edward Abbey: A Life sets the record straight on "Cactus Ed," giving readers a fuller, more human Abbey than most have ever known. For Abbey fans who assume that his "honest novel," The Fool's Progress, was factual or that his public statements were entirely off the cuff, Cahalan's evenhanded shows that Abbey was neither simply a countercultural cowboy hero nor an unprincipled troublemaker, but instead a complex and multifaceted individual whose legacy has only begun to be appreciated. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (14)

4-0 out of 5 stars Meet the real Cactus Ed: Alcoholic Ed
It's true that Cahalan never uses the term, and Abbey himself certainly never fesses up to it, but it's clear that's the case, as a careful reading of this great biography shows, especially if you've read the bulk of Abbey's own work as well, as I have.

Clues? The womanizing and multiple marriages, whether or not Abbey was a misogynist. The immature and obstinate behavior (Example A: Abbey rolling a tire off the South Rim of the Grand Canyon). These alone, if seen in the context of someone's drinking, almost stamp them on the forehead as a stereotypical Type A male alcoholic. If they don't, the whopper storytelling part of his personality does.

But, of course, that's not all.

Although it turned out to be an incorrect diagnosis, normally, there's only one reason you get a diagnosis of pancreatitis without some other medical condition being indicated along with it. And, of course, Abbey's ultimately fatal esophogal varisces are traceable directly to alcohol.

Now, that said, in addition to never owning up to being an alcoholic, Abbey never quit, contrary to myth that even Cahalan doesn't appear to catch.

That's clear from Abbey's final years journals, from which Douglas Peacock, Abbey's model for Hayduke, quotes in "Walking it Off."

In early 1988, Abbey describes the effects of withrdrawal from the codeine he had been using to try to suppress chronic coughing that aggravated the varisces. He explicitly says beer does not ease his codeine withdrawal symptoms.

To the degree that Cahalan, without labeling or analyzing, does catch Abbey's alcoholic behavior, he described it well. Unfortunately, whether because of lack of experience in dealing with the breed or whatever, he unfortunately doesn't analyze Abbey.

The alcoholism is of a piece with other parts of Abbey behind his legendary self-spinning, a glimpse behind that sometimes Abbey gives us himself.

Abbey adamantly insisted he was NOT an environmentalist. Well, the Grand Canyon incident, among MANY others, prove that point all too well. Again, Cahalan sees the pieces, but doesn't do the dot-connecting as much as one might like.

What Abbey really was, as shown by things such as his fondness for 20h century classical music mentioned in "Desert Solitaire," was an existentialist philosopher with a heavy dollop of libertarianism on top. If he had fallen in love with another way of expressing and getting in touch with both existential and libertarian selves, he wouldn't have been out in Arches National Monument.

And yes, we would have been poorer for that, but not as much poorer as Abbey idolators would have us believe.

Abbey deprived the environmental world, the world at large, and many people around, of what could have been much more that he had to offer. But, that's because he was ultimately depriving his own self of -- himself.

But, again, Cahalan, while laying out all the pieces, doesn't quite put the jigsaw together.

That's the prime reason this otherwise excellent bio falls a star short of the top.

5-0 out of 5 stars Leave it to Abbey
Reading about Abbey provided me with the realization that some people in this world really do have a "life" - without many constraints, guilt, or heavy-duty obligations that are often tagged on to an individual by nature of his/her duty to satisfy others.Cahalan presents Abbey as a human being in search ofhis soul while dispelling the myths of his misogyny.Made more interesting by the fact that Cahalan was my professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2003, I easily became immersed into the journeys of Abbey, who like myself, see no boundaries for where I travel or where I go in the future. A great piece of interesting literature!! From the sands of Abbey's Southwest to the sands of Kuwait, I have fallen victim!This inspires me to write my own account of the life of an American woman who finds her passion in the deserts of Kuwait.

4-0 out of 5 stars A very interesting book about a great writer
Having never heard of Edward Abbey or any book he ever wrote (I picked up the book because it was the first on a shelf at the library) I was absorbed by this guy's life and tribulations. I even made it a point to start to read A Fool's Progress. I'm glad I took the time to read the book because it makes you realize that the guy was human, introverted and not the eco-rebel everyone thought he was. He was a writer. I love his mantra:
1) Write Right!
2) Write Good!
3) Write On!

Though he had his troubles with family life I thought his struggles with life, writing and being successful made for a good story.

5-0 out of 5 stars Terrific book on Abbey's life and writing!
I had never even heard of Edward Abbey until Dr. James Cahalan's book was published.I live approximately 35 miles from Indiana and Home, Pennsylvania, and happened to catch an interview of Dr. Cahalan on my NBC affiliate in Johnstown.

This sparked an interest in Abbey and I immediately bought "The Fool's Progress."I struggled to get through 250 of the 513 pages of his "Fat Masterpiece."

I received Dr. Cahalan's "Edward Abbey: a life" as a gift and found it extremely interesting.The author provides very good insights into Abbey's life, his viewpoints and his writing style.

Reading this book has breathed new life into my interest in Abbey.Having read Dr. Cahalan's book has given me what I needed to now finish "The Fool's Progress" with a better understanding of the context in which the book was written.Also, as soon as I finished "Edward Abbey: a life" I bought "Desert Solitaire."

"Edward Abbey: a life" has given this casual (or maybe wannabe) Abbey fan the inspiration and understanding to become a true Abbey fan.In my opinion, this book is the perfect starting point for those fans wanting to explore the many facets of Edward Abbey's life, relationships and writing.

5-0 out of 5 stars A biography that reads like a novel
Edward Abbey's life was so interesting that most any decently-written biography of him should be entertaining.Cahalan's biography is certainly that, but he also delves into Abbey's psyche through the presentation of details that are ignored in other biographies of Abbey.Thus, the reader is provided an image of Abbey that has a lot of "texture," and, I believe, is closer to a faithful picture of the real man, faults and virtues combined.Cahalan does a good job of remaining impartial, and tries to present the events just as they are, so that the reader is pretty much left free to make his/her own judgements about Abbey The Man.This doesn't mean that Cahalan's personal opinions about Abbey don't come out in the book (he is sympathetic to Abbey), but he lets the reader know when he is expressing an opinion, and when he is stating what is taken as fact.

Biographies of famous authors, especially revolutionary ones like Abbey, is a genre that I have started to really enjoy.It seems that, for me at least, reading about the events, and the author's reactions to them, that helped to form such an extraordinary individual is often more entertaining than the author's own writings!That's not to say that I haven't enjoyed most of Abbey's books (not all, though).The same goes for Jack Kerouac.Cahalan's biography and Ann Charter's biography of Kerouac are two fine examples of biographies that read like novels, but are in some ways better, because they report actual events! ... Read more

7. The Monkey Wrench Gang (P.S.)
by Edward Abbey
Paperback: 480 Pages (2006-12-01)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$6.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0061129763
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Ex-Green Beret George Hayduke has returned from war to find his beloved southwestern desert threatened by industrial development. Joining with Bronx exile and feminist saboteur Bonnie Abzug, wilderness guide and outcast Mormon Seldom Seen Smith, and libertarian billboard torcher Doc Sarvis, M.D., Hayduke is ready to fight the power—taking on the strip miners, clear-cutters, and the highway, dam, and bridge builders who are threatening the natural habitat. The Monkey Wrench Gang is on the move—and peaceful coexistence be damned!

Amazon.com Review
Ed Abbey called The Monkey Wrench Gang, his 1975 novel,a "comic extravaganza." Some readers have remarked that the book ismore a comic book than a real novel, and it's true that reading thisincendiary call to protect the American wilderness requires more thana little of the old willing suspension of disbelief. The story centerson Vietnam veteran George Washington Hayduke III, who returns to thedesert to find his beloved canyons and rivers threatened by industrialdevelopment. On a rafting trip down the Colorado River, Hayduke joinsforces with feminist saboteur Bonnie Abbzug, wilderness guide SeldomSeen Smith, and billboard torcher Doc Sarvis, M.D., and together theywander off to wage war on the big yellow machines, on dam builders androad builders and strip miners. As they do, his characters voiceAbbey's concerns about wilderness preservation ("Hell of a place tolose a cow," Smith thinks to himself while roaming through thecanyonlands of southern Utah. "Hell of a place to lose yourheart. Hell of a place... to lose. Period"). Moving from oneimprobable situation to the next, packing more adventure into thespace of a few weeks than most real people do in a lifetime, themotley gang puts fear into the hearts of their enemies, laughing allthe while. It's comic, yes, and required reading for anyone who hascome to love the desert. --Gregory McNamee ... Read more

Customer Reviews (110)

4-0 out of 5 stars Fun...and a classic read
Experience a new outlaw justice in this classic Abbey work. Although you may groan at the sometime sophomoric humor, the storytelling outs and the environmental questions are worth considering, even when voiced by terrorists.

3-0 out of 5 stars trying to understand the position of the Earth First!ers
I put this on my reading list because it's ground zero of the Earth First! environmentalist movement, the vandalism as civil disobedience. And I am not an Earth Firster, tree spiker, SUV dealership destructor, rescuer of bunnies from cosmetic labs, kind of girl.But how who doesn't not love virgin stands of redwoods and the wide, wide, endless sky of the American west and the watersheds of the Colorado?There was no doubt that this author loved the American west, knew the plateaus and cliffs, the wildlife.The descriptions in this book remind you to fall in love with this country all over again, the American Southwest is beautifully, lovingly portrayed in this story.Where's my pack and my sleeping bag because I need to go and rest on the slick rock under the milky way far from the ways for men.

I read this novelto give them 400 pages of my time to explain to me why they do what they do.But progress delayed is not progress defeated.A bulldozer destroyed is not victory.That without our exploding population we wouldn't need to capture the rivers for power, strip the forests for timber and ravage the earth for resources.At one point in the novel, a character actually proposes gathering stones and building houses from them so that we wouldn't need lumber, which would work if the population of the US was a million rather than 100s of millions.The engineers are the bad guys who want to put a chip up the hero's butt and make him calculate exponential factorials, pave the earth, dam the rivers, cloud the sky.

There is a tendency of people who live on the margins to make the assumption that anyone could live on the margins, that anyone could just say no and unplug from the grid.But for the rest of us, it's a lot more complicated than that.

4-0 out of 5 stars Serious issues, questionable handling
In The Monkey Wrench Gang, Abbey addresses serious issues of our style of living on this planet, addressing a variety of of ways in which we rape the earth, from building large highways to mining, logging, and building dams. There is no question that in the last thirty-five years, since the publication of this book, we have continued the same unsustainable trends. Our practices harm the environment and the other living creatures inhabiting it with us. Our desire for comfort and our greed have led us to ignore the damage we are doing. Currently we cannot escape the knowledge of the devastating of our environment through the blown well from our off shore drilling. We have denied the fact that overpopulation is a major problem. Birth control remains a hot political issue. Unless we curb our population and learn to curb our appetites, we continue to damage the earth we live on. Certainly the book will offend many by the lifestyles of its four major characters and by the methods they use to fight expansion into the West. On the other hand, many of us are politically powerless to stop the large corporations. If you can overlook the scruffiness of the major characters and want to live in harmony with nature, this book is for you.

5-0 out of 5 stars Best of Class!
The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey is not so much about environmentalism as it is about environmentalists.The story doesn't abound with sprite-like creatures living in a lush world of ferns and flowers; for the most part it takes place in the barren desert.The landscape plays well with the lives of the characters, which are also windswept and bleak, except for Smith, whose life is like the river's edge, here the desert blooms and like Smith's multifamily life, is almost too lush.
The doctor, the nurse, the vet and the river guide are the true endangered species in this story and dealing with the complexities of modern life threatens them all, and all like them, with extinction.Unlike the other helpless creatures being crushed by developmental progress, these are people who can and do fight back.
The war is on!And it's goes from sad to heroic to hilarious.Abbey is probably the best author there is when it comes to illustrating the real villains: ignorance, arrogance, and greed.When these forces collide with determination, intelligence and resourcefulness the result is a comic battle that will leave you choking with laughter.
The characters will live on in your head long after the book is finished, especially George Washington Hayduke.He is at times the most wonderfully stupid genius, but is never insincere or completely in control.
In our modern, electronic world we have authors like Abbey to thank for helping us to discover the boundaries we needed to keep us from destroying the very things from which our humanity springs.

1-0 out of 5 stars Seeing through Abbey
I read this book in the early 80s when I had just moved to Moab, Utah, where Abbey lived for a while and where he worked for the Park Service. I was appalled by what others have already noted, the glib tacit approval of vandalism.

Abbey was a talented and entertaining writer and could weave magic out of the landscape.I am one of the people who moved to Moab because of Desert Solitaire, a decision I never regretted, altho I left when the town became ruined for anyone but the very rich - See Brave New West by Jim Stiles. But in all Abbey's work, not just Monkey Wrench Gang, a nasty streak surfaces now and then, and at some point I quit reading him. ... Read more

8. The Fool's Progress: An Honest Novel
by Edward Abbey
Paperback: 528 Pages (1998-08-15)
list price: US$18.00 -- used & new: US$10.09
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0805057919
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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When his third wife abandons him in Tucson, boozing, misanthropic anarchist Henry Holyoak Lightcap shoots his refrigerator and sets off in a battered pick-up truck for his ancestral home in West Virginia. Accompanied only by his dying dog and his memories, the irascible warhorse (a stand-in for the "real" Abbey) begins a bizarre cross-country odyssey--determined to make peace with his past--and to wage one last war against the ravages of "progress."
Amazon.com Review
Just before he died in 1989, Ed Abbey published what he called his "honestnovel," one loosely based on his own life. Early in its opening pages,Abbey's alter ego, Lightcap, takes off from his nearly empty home (itscontents just removed by a disgruntled spouse) in Tucson, Arizona--but notbefore shooting his refrigerator, a hated symbol of civilization. Lightcapmakes a winding journey by car to his boyhood home in the AppalachianMountains of Pennsylvania, calling on old friends along the road, visitingIndian reservations and out-of-the-way bars, and reminiscing about thetriumphs and follies of his life. Readers would be mistaken to view this aspure autobiography, but The Fool's Progress nonetheless is anilluminating look into Abbey's time and his way of thinking, especially onmatters of ecology and other social issues. It's also a picaresque talehumorously and artfully told, a book that Abbey himself rightly regarded asone of his best works of fiction. --Gregory McNamee ... Read more

Customer Reviews (90)

5-0 out of 5 stars Believe the accolades heaped upon this masterpiece...
In my search for another "Confederacy of Dunces" genre I came across this book and was enticed by the accolades heaped upon it by amazon.com reviewers; one who promised me a laugh out funny and cry your eyes out sad reading experience.(What more can one ask of any book?) All of the accolades are spot on - get pass the original impression that the protagonist is an insufferable jerk, he really is not, he is just a man who lived life on his terms and paid whatever price he had to pay for doing so.On his 3500 mile journey home to his roots in the Appalachian foothills he lays bare this life so don't hesitate to go with him because you will have truly a wonderful time; he will take you to the mountain tops and he will show you the valleys and on the home straight feel free to show him your tears. Thanks Edward Abbey and R.I.P.!

5-0 out of 5 stars An Excellent, Complex Novel and Character Study
I just re-read this (working my way through the entire Abbey oeuvre for a second (or third or fourth ...) read) after having read it originally just after first publication.It's a superb novel.

This is a mostly-autobiographical novel about the life of Abbey stand-in Henry Lightcap and, in parallel, about his final journey from Arizona to his birthplace in Appalachia.This is a brilliantly told story of a life an exposition of a real character.

As usual, Abbey will give anyone much to take offense at and much to sympathize with.This novel is probably Abbey's best, though it is unlikely to exceed TMWG in popularity (this would not have bothered Abbey, though he did yearn for affirmation.)It's more mature and more complex and real than his earlier novels.

I note a few things about this novel:I appreciate it much more now than I did as a young man, it has much bigger ambitions than his previous novels and attains them, the writing is superb throughout ... with a couple of caveats.First, in the first chapter of the book, he gives the reader the full blast of the negative and offensive (to some) facets of the title character.This was a bit hard to get through, even for me, a die-hard Abbey fan.(I seriously question this tactic.I think he maybe just felt like:I don't give a damn anymore, here at the very end of my life.)And, the text is amazingly thoroughly peppered with sound-bite-like chunks of distilled Abbey wit and/or wisdom (according to taste.)Mostly, these fit into the story well; but occassionally, they stand out a bit too starkly.

But these are minor quibbles.If you are willing to accept a thoroughly (fatally ...) flawed main character, you will enjoy a great read.

5-0 out of 5 stars A true masterpiece!
I discovered Edward Abbey somewhere around mid 2008.I have been on an Abbey book reading rampage ever since.Primarily a non-fiction reader, I started with Desert Solitaire, The Journey Home, Abbey's Road and Confessions of a Barbarian.(ALL EXCELLENT!) My first selection for his fiction work was The Fool's Progress, after reading in Confessions that he considered this his best novel.This book has grabbed me by the heart and never let go.He is the most passionate and truthful writer I have ever read. If you love Abbey and have not read this book, believe me, buy it and take this journey with him. I intend on reading every book he ever wrote and then reading them again!

5-0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite novels ...
After "The Monkeywrench Gang", this is my favorite book by Abbey -- full of action, humor, and hatred for the death machine ... good read.

5-0 out of 5 stars One Man's Life: A Journey Out; A Journey Back
Henry Lightcap migrates westward on the cusp of maturity but heads back east near the end of his life. This novel describes both journeys at once in a series of interleaved chapters. Each journey has its own logic, but we don't fully understand Lightcap or the relationship between his journeys until the end of the book, when both journeys have been completed.

Lightcap is Abbey's alter ego, much as the fictional narrator of "A Fan's Notes" is Frederick Exley's. Abbey and Exley have plenty in common, and so do their alter egos. Neither author was easy to live with, and neither tried to make his alter ego more congenial than himself. Indeed, an accurate portrayal of his own worst traits is a grim goal toward which Abbey and Exley both strived.

Lightcap's intellectual energy holds the reader's attention from beginning to end. This is completely appropriate, considering that Abbey says of Lightcap's own reading that, "He remembered best not the development of character or the unraveling of plot or the structure of an argument but simply the quality of the author's mind. That part remained, and by that standard alone he finally judged the author and either threw the book aside or read it through and searched out more by the same writer."

Edward Abbey, I perfectly understand this approach to literature. It perfectly explains how reading Desert Solitaire brought me to The Fool's Progress and is about to bring me to all of your other books. ... Read more

9. One Life at a Time, Please
by Edward Abbey
Paperback: 240 Pages (1988-02-15)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$7.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0805006036
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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From stories about cattlemen, fellow critics, his beloved desert, cities, and technocrats to thoughts on sin and redemption, this is one of our most treasured writers at the height of his powers.
Amazon.com Review
In his passionate defense of wilderness and wild-ness, EdwardAbbey is always worth reading for those who value a wolf's howl morethan the ka-chink! of a cash register, and no matter what the subject,Cactus Ed always shoots from the hip. This collection of essays is nodifferent, and contains the invaluable "A Writer's Credo," whereinAbbey tells would-be scribes to rock the boat and make a stand, elsethe noble craft is reduced to a mess of pottage, and the muse has noreason for staying. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars classic abbey
This collection of essays is a wonderful snapshot of Abbey's talent.If you like these, try some of his books.

5-0 out of 5 stars More insight into Abbey the man, and Abbey the writer...
This book is a collection of shorter pieces published by Edward Abbey in magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and other venues.It is organized (roughly) into the following sections:politics, travel, and literature/art.Some chapters were of greater interest to me than others, but all gave me greater insight into Edward Abbey the man, and Ed Abbey, the writer.

Highlights and controversies:

Abbey has been called lots of things, but when he was accused of being "...arrogant, incoherent, flippant, nonsensical, nasty, and unconstructive..." after publishing an anti-cattle-on-western-public-lands rant, he commented, "'Nasty and unconstructive' - I love that" (p. 3).

"The rancher (with a few honorable exceptions) is a man who strings barbed wire across the range; drills wells and bulldozes stockponds; drives off elk and antelope and bighorn sheep; poisons coyotes and prairie dogs; shoots eagles, bears, and cougars on sight; supplants the native grasses with tumbleweed, snakeweed, povertyweed, cow[manure], anthills, mud, dust, and flies.And then leans back and grins at the TV cameras and talks about how much he loves the American West" (p. 17-18).

"And if the wilderness is our true home, and if it is threatened with invasion, pillage, and destruction - as it certainly is - then we have the right to defend that home, as we would our private quarters, by whatever means are necessary" (p. 31).

"'Paw,' says my little brother, as the old man loads the shotgun, 'let me shoot the deer this time.'
'You shut up,' I say.
Our father smiles. 'Quiet,' he whispers, 'both of you.Maybe next year.'He peers down the dim path in the woods, into the gathering evening.'Be real still now.They're a-comin'.And Ned -'He squeezes my shoulder.'You hold that light on 'em good and steady this time.'
'Yes, sire,' I whisper back.'Sure will, Paw'" (p. 39-40).

[This is one of Abbey's most controversial essays, in a life full of controversial essays.]"Poverty, injustice, overbreeding, overpopulation, suffering, oppression, military rule, squalor, torture, terror, massacre: these ancient evils feed and breed one one another in synergistic symbiosis.To break the cycles of pain at least two new forces are required: social equity - and birth control.Population control.Our Hispanic neighbors are groping toward this discovery.If we truly wish to help them we must stop meddling in their domestic troubles and permit them to carry out the social, political, and moral revolution which is both necessary and inevitable.Or if we must meddle, as we have always done, let us meddle for a change in a constructive way.Stop every campesino at our southern border, give him a handgun, a good rifle, and a case of ammunition, and send him home.He will know what to do with our gifts and good wishes.The people know who their enemies are" (p. 44).

"Only a fool envies the joy of a child; a grown-up man or woman shares in that joy" (p. 63).

"It seldom fails: there's something about a progress down a river that brings out the best in anyone.Getting bored with your neuroses?Drop your analyst - drop him/her like a cold potato - and make tracks for the nearest river" (p. 108).

The entire chapter titled "A Writer's Credo" is very thoughtful - pages 161-178."He who sticks out his neck may get his head chopped off.Quite so.Nevertheless it remains the writer's moral duty to stick out the neck, whether he lives in a totalitarian state or in a relatively open society such as our own.Speak out: or take up a different trade" (p. 164).

[Quoting Joseph Wood Krutch from a recorded interview] "You see, I have this private, subjective feeling that killing things for the sake of sport is wrong.I think hunting is bad for hunters because killing for pleasure tends to brutalize those who do it" (p. 184).

And also from that interview with Krutch, "As I've said before, too many people use their automobiles not as a means to get to the parks but rather use the parks as a place to take their automobiles" (p. 185).

Intriguing, entertaining, sobering, shocking, and sometimes "nasty and unconstructive" - take these chapters one life at a time.Please.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good, but not great.
It is a collection of essays across the years.As usual in a book like this, it is uneven.Some essays are funny, inspiring, hard-hitting, others are dull.I found the best essays were when he was describing the desert Southwest.The worst were those where he was talking about the art of writing.All in all, I was glad I bought this book.It has enough good in it to overcome the bad.Thus, it is rated a 4, although some of the essays were 5's, other's were 3's.

3-0 out of 5 stars Hit and miss collection of Abbey essays
Edward Abbey's curmudgeonly persona permeates this collection of essays organized by topic (politics, travel, books and art and nature love). This is one of Abbey's later books, a mish-mash of essays, magazine articles and book prefaces, and it has a disjointed feel.

When Abbey describes a journey, like his description of a houseboat trip on Lake Powell, he is magical. When he decides to be political or critical, when the desert rat Abbey comes to fore, he just comes off as too ranting, too artful, trying to hard to be clever and angry at the same time. This is always Abbey, or, I could argue, any artist, at their worst -- when they become so self conscious of their persona that they have to pander to it to maintain the illusion of it. That's at least how Abbey comes off to me in the rantings in this book.

His article about a trip to San Francisco shines when it describes his visit to Robinson Jeffers house, but could do without the pithy descriptions of his daughter and meeting with the magazine editor.

Read "One Life..." one story at a time. If you don't like one, skip it and move on. There are enough pleasing nuggets to satisfy both avid fan and neophyte alike.

3-0 out of 5 stars Abbey reveals some weakness in his character and writings
I had great expectations after reading the first essay: Free Speech.I feel like the book went downhill from there.Abbey seems particularly fond of wandering off by himself, but frankly, when he's part of a white-water rafting excursion, I have serious doubts that they would even let him do that.I'm certain now that he's taking considerable "artistic license" in some of these essays.For me the low point was "Writer's Credo".I felt a strong level of insincerity in this piece -How can a writer feel it's his duty to criticize everyone around him without first subjecting himself to the same standards.Frankly, at best, "Credo" is just a justification for Abbey's misanthropic tendencies.At worst, it's a lie.

"Krutch" was just plain boring."Sex" was somewhat redeeming.

I'm not sure what to say about "Sportsmen" - which as Abbey puts it, is simply excerpts from a printed leaflet.It sure was scary.The question is, with the questions raised about Abbey's honesty of description, and sincerity of purpose, how factual is this piece titled "Sportsmen"?I don't want to believe it, and Abbey spent the whole rest of the book crying wolf.I don't know.

I absolutely love some of Abbey's books.We all love "Desert Solitaire", and the charicatures of "The Monkey Wrench Gang", etc., are wonderful.But this patchwork of rehashed essays seems just like a cheap way to make some extra cash.In summary, a careful read of this bookwill likely expand your image of this writer, but leave you with questions about his veracity.I guess the next book for me will have to be "Confessions".Don't make this your first foray into Abbey's world.You're likely to miss the best. ... Read more

10. The Serpents of Paradise: A Reader
by Edward Abbey
 Paperback: 400 Pages (1996-05-15)
list price: US$18.00 -- used & new: US$3.22
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0805031332
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
This book is different from any other Edward Abbey book.It includes essays, travel pieces and fictions to reveal Ed's life directly, in his own words.

The selections gathered here are arranged chronologically by incident, not by date of publication, to offer Edward Abbey's life from the time he was the boy called Ned in Home, Pennsylvania, until his death in Tucson at age 62.A short note introduces each of the four parts of the book and attempts to identify what's happening in the author's life at the time.When relevant, some details of publishing history are provided.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to Edward Abbey's work
After reading this collection, which serves as a retrospective of the writin career of one of the better SW writers, I was left with a feeling that the selection could have been better, but this probably reflects my own eclectic readings of his work.Abbey's writings always seemed uneven, particularly in his fiction.His comments about the role of the independent writer versus that of the commercial hired of the establishment press seems right on.In spite of his many years of part-time non-writing service to various agencies he still managed to maintain his freedom to say what he wished about the rot he saw in the management of public lands.I suspect that he was always a bit shocked abouthow cheaply managers of public linds could be bought off. As a review of his lifetime of writing the book is excellent.McCrae includes some of his fiction, both the excellent ("The Brave Cowboy") and only fair (The Monkey Wrench Gang").The sampling from his writings might be occasionally dated, but are still mostly relevant to the problems of the SW.His polemic about the cowboy ("Free Speech - The cowboy ans his cow") clearly points to the problems of allowing anythinglike an unrestricted use of and romanticism about what can easily become an extractive industry.At the same time Abbey'sfollowers should have a difficult time justapositionng his sense of anarchy with this complaints about the institutional anarchy of commercial capitalism. To finish.A good read and certainly worthwhile for someone new to Abbey's work while being a fair sample of his writings for a person with only a passing acquaintance with the writings of one of the West's best essayist.The closing comments in Wendell Berry's poem about his friend are most appropriate. ... Read more

11. The Best of Edward Abbey
Paperback: 458 Pages (2005-07-01)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$10.91
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1578051215
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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This is the only major collection of Abbey’s writings compiled by the author himself: in his own words, “to present what I think is both the best and most representative of my writing—so far.” It serves up a rich feast of fiction and prose by the singular American writer whom Larry McMurtry called “the Thoreau of the American West.”
Devoted Abbey fans along with readers just discovering his work will find a mother lode of treasures here: generous chunks of his best novels, including The Brave Cowboy, Black Sun, and his classic The Monkey Wrench Gang; and more than a score of his evocative, passionate, trenchant essays—a genre in which he produced acknowledged masterpieces such as Desert Solitaire. Scattered throughout are the author’s own petroglyph-style sketches.
This new edition adds selections from work that appeared shortly before Abbey’s death: a chapter from Hayduke Lives!, the hilarious sequel to The Monkey Wrench Gang; excerpts from his revealing journals; and examples of his poetry.A new foreword by Doug Peacock—Abbey’s close friend and the model for the flamboyant activist Hayduke—offers a fond appreciation of this larger-than-life figure in American letters.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

4-0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally enjoyable
This is a great group of bits and pieces from Ed. Abbey's books, a sampler if you will.Well put together and gives you an idea of the flavor of his work, each piece has the year date, so it gives you an idea of the mood of his work throughout the years.I highly reccomend to those who think they might like Abbey, this is a good place to start.

5-0 out of 5 stars New to Edward Abbey
If you have been pondering whether you should read Ed Abbey or not, than this is the book for you.Abbey is an author who had been in the back of my mind for years, but I had never made the effort to read any of his works.I recieved this book as a gift and let it sit on the shelf for about two years.

I waited too long.What a great read.Bits and pieces of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and personel thoughts, the Best of is a book that was put together by Abbey himself of snipets he thought any general reader could enjoy.His writing style, his topics, and his genuine enjoyment of what he does makes this a fine read.I went out and bought a number of his books upon finishing this book and have been very pleased with The Monkeywrench Gang, Hayduke Lives, Fire on the Mountain, The Fool's Progress, Down the River, etc. etc.

Anyone who treasures our outdoors, our rivers, our mountains, and a sarcastic take on the system should pick this book up.I'm looking forward to plenty more Edward Abbey.If you have been waiting to get into Abbey, I highly reccomend it and this book is a great place to start.

3-0 out of 5 stars A great sampling, but not much more than that.
If you're a fan of Edward Abbey, it wouldn't hurt to check out this book but you may as well just get the books that it takes samples from:Jonathan Troy, The Brave Cowboy, Fire on the Mountain, Desert Solitaire, Appalachian Wilderness, Black Sun, The Monkey Wrench Gang, The Journey Home, Abbey's Road, Good News, Down the River, Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside, The Fool's Progress: An Honest Novel, Hayduke Lives!, Earth Apples: The Poetry of Edward Abbey, and Confessions of a Barbarian.Many of the samplings seem out of place when they are taken out of the context of their stories, but there are others that were written to be read individually such as the chapters from Desert Solitaire.Plenty of great writing, but I can't really recommend this book to anyone who either isn't an obsessed fan or someone who just wants a condensed way to see if Edward Abbey is an author who they might want to read more of.I think that if you are one of the latter, you would do better to pick up a copy of Desert Solitaire or the Monkey Wrench Gang instead.

4-0 out of 5 stars An Exceptional Protrayal
An outstanding portrayal of what it means to be on foot in the middle of the harsh desert wilderness. Of the balance between beauty and the harsh reality of an environment where every animal (from stealthy mountain lionsto invisible bugs) every plant (from majestic saguaros to innocent weeds)and even the land itself (from river-bottom quick sand to valley feverlurking in the dust) is at any moment ready to strike, sting, bite,scratch, poke, infect or crumble away beneath your feet withoutwarning.

Humbling. Awe-inspiring. Solid environmental consciousness hardto argue against. And written in a voice that recollects Hunter S. Thompsonin its appreciation of the beauty in the weirdness of it all. Having grownup in Arizona, and exploring these same lands, Abbey accurately representswhat it feels like to be there. And pithy profundities abound for thedeeper meaning of it all. ... Read more

12. Abbey's Road
by Edward Abbey
Paperback: 224 Pages (1991-01-30)
list price: US$17.00 -- used & new: US$5.93
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0452265649
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Abbey's explorations include the familiar territory of the Rio Grande in Texas, Canyonlands National Park, and Lake Powell in Utah. He also takes readers to such varied places as Scotland, the interior of Australia, the Sierra Madre, and Isla de la Sombra in Mexico.Amazon.com Review
Curmudgeon, environmental brawler, and literary desert rat,Edward Abbey nursed dreams of one day walking out into the wild "tobecome one with the landscape. To just... disappear." He made valiantefforts to make good on that dream of escape in sometimes harebrained,often dangerous expeditions to difficult places, adventures some ofwhich are recounted in this lively collection of essays.

The firstpart of Abbey's Road is given to a walkabout in the outback ofAustralia, whose scattered human settlements remind Abbey of towns inthe American West, "although not so blatantly ugly." Having ignoredgood advice not to stray too far afield in that waterless place andlived to tell the tale, Abbey turns later in the book to other desertlandscapes (islands in the Gulf of California, remote corners of theGrand Canyon, and the like) before delivering a series of trademarkyawps against the forces that would just as soon bulldoze such placesas protect them.Along the way Abbey recalls his work as a seasonalpark ranger (which yielded his incomparable memoir, Desert Solitaire) andfire lookout, offers a few tongue-in-cheek words in defense ofrednecks, and muses on the effects of hallucinogenic drugs and thevirtues of his "slapstick, slapdash, sex-crazed manner"--all good andgenerally good-natured pieces, even if a few of them are now showingsigns of age.

If you're new to Abbey's work, Abbey's Road isnot the best place to start; have a look at The Best of EdwardAbbey or TheSerpents of Paradise, two sturdy, career-spanningcollections. But if you've read his better-known books and want tohave a closer look at the man behind them, Abbey's Road is theone to follow. --Gregory McNamee ... Read more

Customer Reviews (9)

5-0 out of 5 stars A deeper look inside Abbey's head...
Abbey's Road is a collection of vignettes from Ed Abbey's travels, including Australia, Italy, Mexico, and his beloved Southwest.In it, he continues to be a curmudgeon, a caustic observer of nature and people, less than polite and more than poetic.He irritates, entertains, and educates, all at the same time.

While Abbey was in Australia, "Penny introduced them [three Aboriginal women] to me as she squinted through her viewfinder: 'This is Jean, the blind one; this is Sheila, missing a nose; this is Lily Billy.'Sprawled in the dust and ashes, the witch-ladies gaped at me, including the one without eyes, and jabbered away.They were the most physically hideous human creatures I had ever seen - shrunken, mutilated, gray with filth, pot-bellied, spindle-limbed, crawling with flies to which they appeared supremely indifferent - all of them obviously syphilitic and mad as kookaburras... I watched their lively hands, their active searching faces, and saw something like gaiety in those irrepressible gestures.Why quit, they were saying.Why quit?" (p. 28-29).

Expect more of the same.

Of famous Ayers Rock, "The rock rises 1,200 feet above the desert.It is a mile long, half a mile wide.One single monolithic bulge of ancient, arcane, arkose, and rugose Cambrian sandstone, 500 million years old..., it resembles a pink - or in different light - a rust red worm or grub, hairless and wrinkled, that has succumbed, through petrifaction, to the prevailing inertia of Being" (p. 53).Ayers Rock (Uluru) is a hairless grub?That's an Abbeyesque description, for sure!

And here's another of his caustic and "insensitive" observations: "I always get scared when I enter Mexico.Something about those short, heavy mestizo police with their primitive stonefish eyes - the way they look at you - and the bandits loafing along the highways with stolen assault rifles, picking their teeth with lizard bones.I don't know which I fear most, the cops or the bandits.In fact except for the uniform, I can't tell one from the other" (p. 70).

He continues his condemnation of exploiting nature for economic gain: "Turismo is always and everywhere a dubious, fraudulent, distasteful, and in the long run, degrading business, enriching a few, doing the rest more harm than good" (p. 86), or for recreation: "There is no lower form of life known to zoological science than the motorboat fisherman, the speedboat sightseer" (p. 118).

Abbey has a unique way of describing the world.Here are a few samples:

"The taste of fear on my tongue - a green and sour flavor.The blue green corrosion of an old battery terminal" (p. 80).

"I am fascinated by his feet.The old man owns the most beaten-up, stone-battered, cactus-cured, fire-hardened pair of feet I have ever seen on a human-being - so cracked, played, and toughened they almost suggest hooves" (p. 84).

"... [O]ne word is worth a thousand pictures.If it's the right word" (p. 113).

"What the conscience of our race - environmentalism - is trying to tell us is that we must offer to all forms of life and to the planet itself the same generosity and tolerance we require from our fellow humans" (p. 135).

"If I were good and hungry, would I eat a javelina?Yes, I'd roast its head in a pit of mesquite coals and scramble my eggs with its brains.I have no quarrel with any man who kills one of God's creature's in order to feed his women and children and the old folks.Nothing could be more right and honorable, when the need is really there" (p. 141).

The chapters in this volume "improve" as you delve deeper into the book.That is, he gets much, much more philosophical and introspective.His chapters titled "My Life as a P.I.G., or the True Adventures of Smokey the Cop," and "Fire Lookout" are particularly recommended.

And you will, eventually, get to the writing that brings you back to Desert Solitaire:

"I stumble over a rock in the trail.Sun down and gone, not a star in the clouded sky.The woods are deep, and very dark, and not lovely.I stop and stare at the dim silhouettes of the trees against the fainter dark of the sky.Sound of crickets down below; it must be August one more time.An autumnal month here in the mountains.And I'm alone again.Once more I ask myself the simple, obvious question: Why not die?Why keep hanging around, stumbling over rocks, bending beer cans, hurting people with your stupidity, losing your children here and there?What are you waiting for, you drunken clown?

"But I'm grinning in the dark, not about to give up yet.I find it comfortable here in the cool damp womb of the forest, alone in the velvet night.I think I could stand here all night long and if it doesn't rain too hard, be content.Even happy.Me and the crickets and the oafish bears (they'll never make it as gentlemen), snuffling about through the brush, grubbing for something good to eat.At this moment I think: If he'd let me I'd get down on all-fours and shuffle along side by side with Cousin Bear, rooting for slugs, smearing my hairy face with crushed blackberries, tearing at roots" (p. 189).


3-0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag
Not one of the best of Abbey, but this one is a bit different, as it has 4 essays about his travels in Australia, which is quite rare as mostly Abbey wrote about North America (especially the deserts in Southwest US and northern Mexico).

Abbey was a self-proclaimed "agrarian anarchist" and hated when people call him a "nature writer" or a "naturalist". Well, he was not and in this book you will see why. He tossed his beer cans and wine bottles in the Outbank of Australia as if it were a big trash yard (which reminds you that in Desert Solitaire he threw an old tire into the Grand Canyon); when he was annoyed by some birds he wished he had a shotgun and a carload of twelve-gauge shells. He drove a passenger car (as he calls it a "lesbian car") which is not suited for the sandy and rocky desert through the Outback, probably seldom sober, thanks to the beer and "magic tea" (a mixture of tea and Bourbon he drank all the time, and eventually wrecked it, leaked oil all over the place and had to have it towed (on its side most of the time). And he acted like a jerk -- though he was married at the time, he tried to pick up women all the time. No doubt some of these are a bit exaggerated somewhat, but his attitude is undeniable -- he came across like a self-centered, arrogant chauvinist. Abbey lived an intense life -- may he rest in peace -- and I don't doubt he really loved the desert, but what he really cared was that others got out of his way so he could have it all to himself. He said "rocks have rights too", but seldom did he exhibit any respect or compassion to the animals, plants, not to mention "rocks" in the desert. They were good only when they were convenient.

The book also has the chronicle problem with Abbey's non-fiction books -- they are collections of previously published magazine articles and such, the quality of which varies greatly. So by design they are already a mixed bag. The essays in the first section "Travel" are the best and are on par with his other essays. The other sections are pretty forgettable: "Polemics and Sermons" are just repetition of his naive (and quite extremely conservative) political views, "Personal History" is of little interest to me either. So what I got from this book is really the first 9 essays. I've given pretty generous reviews of Abbey's other works, so I am giving it 3 stars here to balance things out (I would have given it 3.5 stars if I could).

4-0 out of 5 stars More rants from His Snideness
He's flip, he's serious, at times at the top of his entertainment (always second to the polemics) game. When Abbey's "on", as he is in parts of this book of essays, he's untouchable. His Snideness is at his most philosophical, his most opinionated, his most, uh . . . truculent, in this stimulating book. Along with Desert Solitaire (see my review), this book will not be leaving my bookshelf anytime soon.

There are 3 sections: Travel (the most entertaining), Polemics & Sermons (actually more like Rants & Raves), and Personal History. The one disturbing/detracting aspect to the book is this: With all the leg-pulling, hyperbole, and outrageous pronouncements dished out, Abbey's glaring racist side can't be disguised. His calloused remarks about the Mexicans and Hispanics are passed off as snide humor, but the insensitivity is pretty unsettling. It reveals a deeper prejudice, something that a guy like Cactus Ed should have been well aware of but I suppose it was his perogative to sound like a redneck anyway.

So, there you have it, a pretty decent offering from a real iconoclast. If you haven't read Abbey before, I would read Desert Solitaire first and try this one on after.


The Cloud Reckoner

Extracts: A Field Guide for Iconoclasts

5-0 out of 5 stars If you enjoy Edward Abbey, this is as good as it gets!
All of the material in this cassette is available elsewhere, but nowhere else can you hear the intonation, humor, and on occasions rants of Cactus Ed in his own voice.I have played this for friends who have never heard of Abbey and universally comment that they have never heard anything quite like it.Whether he's drinking with pigs in the desert, musing on planting a tree under the nuclear umbrella, or playing cat and hiker with a puma, there is wisdom and absurdity in every spoken sentence.If they ever get another copy and you beat me to it - mine has worn out - you have won a real prize.

3-0 out of 5 stars Hit or Miss
This is an entertaining firsthand account of Abbey's adventures as he travels through some of the most remote and beautiful locales in the world. The first chapter, in which he travels through Australia, is by far the most entertaining, and Abbey's wit really shines here. He also makes strong arguments throughout the book about why preserving beautiful natural areas is so important. Some of the subsequent stories come off as so much fluff, in which Abbey is trying to find events of significance and/or peril in the face of a mundane trip. The events seem to me to be interesting enough without having to be dolled up.

... Read more

13. Black Sun: A Novel
by Edward Abbey
Paperback: 240 Pages (2003-09)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$15.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1555662862
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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BLACK SUN, a bittersweet love story, is about a forest ranger -- loner, iconclast, lover of the rugged life -- who falls for an utterly beguiling freckle-faced "American princess" half his age.

Like Lady Chatterley's lover, he initiates her into the rite of sex and the stark, hidden harmonies of his wild wooded kingdom and canyons. She, in turn, awakens in him the pleasures of loving and being loved. Then she disappears, plunging him into a gloom he can barely support.

"If the ending is sad and haunting, the book is not. It's a lyrical romance with the kind of passion and scenery that Abbey alone can conjure up." (B-O-T Editorial Review Board) ... Read more

Customer Reviews (18)

4-0 out of 5 stars Connects some of Ed Abbey's passions - wildness and women
I'm working on getting though all of Edward Abbey's books.Black Sun was first published in 1971, and the two books I've read to date that were published prior to this one are Desert Solitaire and Fire on the Mountain.From these three, I see patterns that are repeated in some of this other books (such as The Monkey Wrench Gang, Hayduke Lives!, and Good News), particularly regarding his preoccupation with wildness, the desert southwest, the failures of government and society's institutions, and his love of women.

What does Abbey think about marriage?

"Marriage in our society is rotting away from too much love.They're killing it with love.Romantic love.They marry for love, the bloody fools, turn their backs on the world and start sucking each other's blood.They poison marriage with love.They feed on each other, they cling to each other, all these lonely desperate couples all over America cut off from the earth, cut off from the past, cut off from any sense of a common life, just these miserable lonely, frightened couples with their miserably lonely, frightened brats, all feeding on another like parasites, each man demanding from his wife what no single isolated woman could possibly give or be, each woman demanding from her husband the strength and security and tenderness which is beyond the power of any single isolated man.Because they have nothing else they bank all their hopes on marriage and inevitably they are disappointed.Love and marriage cannot give anyone more than a token of what we all need.Love and marriage in themselves are not enough.And so in disappointment theyturn against each other, those stranded and lonely couples, and their love soon sours into hate" (p. 50, Capra Press edition).

But it is his vision of nature, seen through his eyes and his pen, that captivates me:

"In the late afternoon, early evening, the sun yielding at last,they lay on the sandunder the willow tree and watched their supper cook on the clear slow passion of burning juniper.One lizard crawled with care down the veined face of a granite boulder, watching them, and slipped with a twitch of tapering tail into the black shadow beneath the rock.They scooped up the fine river sandin their hands and let it flow through their fingers.Talking quietly" (p. 74).

The edition I read, by Capra Press (Black Sun), has an afterword/tribute written by Abbey confidant Charles Bowden in 1990.Bowden discusses the impact of Abbey on him as a writer, and on the rest of us as readers."Ed Abbey invented the Southwest we live in.he made us look at it, and when we looked up again we suddenly saw it through his eyes and sensed what he sensed - we were killing the last good place.His words were driven by a moral energy, a biting tongue, and, thank God, by an abundant sense of humor. ...when I'm dead and dust, people will still be reading Edward Abbey, because the stuff he wrote is alive" (p. 164).

And Bowden mentions how Abbey wrote:"He worked hard at his writing.An Abbey draft was blitzkrieged with crossed out words, clauses and sentences moved, and had the general appearance of a bed of writhing serpents" (p. 164).

Enough about Abbey.As a story, Black Sun is about love found, love lost, and love lust.It's about his experiences, real or fictional, working at a fire lookout station.It's about his desires for the flesh of women.In other words, it's about Edward Abbey, his experiences and his dreams.As a story, it's not the best and brightest.But it does help the reader watch the evolution of a writer and an environmental consciousness.

5-0 out of 5 stars You've Got To Earn This Book
Henry Miller once wrote that a book is only valuable when read at the right time in a person's life. Ed Abbey's Black Sun is a book for those in transition. It is a book that has to be earned.
The story of a jaded college professor who at some point dropped out of the system to man a solitary station in a fire tower, the book is alive with descriptions of the high country on what I assume to be the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Abbey's writing is vibrant evoking chilly mornings and arid, hot trips into the canyon. Along the way he meets a girl and feels a connection so complete that the writing aches with desire, contentment, and ultimately, despair.
I too am walking away from a life that has been misguided but fulfilling. I too have wanted someone so badly the very thought of her still makes me see sunshine, only to see it evaporate in heat waves that shimmer in the distance where the possibility of dreams coming true meets reality.
In the end the biggest dreamers wind up as the butt of their own joke...the funny little story that that which makes our lives complete will one day wander down a trail and appear before us. It doesn't happen and at some point we have to decide to get the hell out and go about the business of discovering where we fit into a system that is the best fit for the masses, where our reveries of the perfect girl are confined to books, and we have to vacate our real lives to catch a glimpse of what we wanted everyday to be.

4-0 out of 5 stars clunky, but enjoyable read
I tore through "Black Sun" in a couple days. I find Abbey's dialogue, both here and in his more famous "Monkey Wrench Gang," to be a bit clunky, but his nature descriptions are spot on.

The main character, Gatlin, is a ranger who works alone on a fire lookout tower in some unnamed western locale (though by the clues given it seems to be somewhere near the Grand Canyon). Gatlin's crisis: Can he leave nature for the love of a woman? For anyone enthralled by wild places, adventure, travel, or any other pursuit that supersedes relationships, this dilemma is remarkably prescient.

Readers looking for the curmudgeonly environmental polemicist Abbey in "Black Sun" will be disappointed. Readers can expect an easy read, beautiful nature descriptions, and a simple, tragic, poetically elegaic love story. Abbey never was very good at portraying the human condition. He regarded our species as a scourge on the landscape. But "Black Sun" is the most human book he ever wrote.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wilderness and Loneliness
This is probably Edward Abbey's least political work, and the cranky old desert conservationist came up with a surprisingly emotional and bittersweet love story. The main character has escaped his painful past by taking up a very lonely job at a fire tower near the Grand Canyon, getting closer to nature and further from other people, as a way to battle his demons. He then unexpectedly falls in love with a younger woman who is working at the park, but can't figure out how to make her part of his lonely existence, which may or may not be bringing him true happiness. But in the end, he has loneliness forced upon him again anyway, as the girl disappears back into nature herself. One problem with this novel is the stilted interpersonal dialogue, which was never Abbey's strength, while he was even less adept at building a believable romance. But on the good side, this novel, based to an unclear degree on Abbey's true experiences, is a remarkably emotional exploration of the true loneliness that can be found when one communes with nature for the long haul, and how this loneliness can both lift and crush one's spirits. [~doomsdayer520~]

5-0 out of 5 stars black sun
Beautiful, lyrical, magical - the best book Abbey ever wrote, in my opinion.I suppose many would argue the point, as Abbey doesn't address environmental issues at all, and the story is strictly a love story.But it is a wonderful story written in remarkable metaphorical prose - fantastic. ... Read more

14. Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside
by Edward Abbey
Paperback: 224 Pages (1984-04-15)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$7.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0805008209
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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In this wise and lyrical book about landscapes of the desert and the mind, Edward Abbey guides us beyond the wall of the city and asphalt belting of superhighways to special pockets of wilderness that stretch from the interior of Alaska to the dry lands of Mexico.
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Customer Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars Edward Abbey at his best and worst
This book simultaneously reveals the best and worst of Edward Abbey. The first essay, A Walk in the Desert Hills, is vintage Abbey (in his later stage). He is cranky, ornery, opinionated, observant, honest, sensitive and horny (thank goodness he does not show that too often in his books) at the same time. One can't help but think that Abbey is also somewhat hypocritical in some ways: he detests cattle but enjoys a sizzling T-bone steak, he loathes industrialization but drinks mass produced Budweisers and Jim Beam, he claims to be an environmental activist but bounces a old tire into the Grand Canyon (in Desert Solitaire), he denounces the "obscene anthropoid fecundity", "industrial mass production of babies and bodies", but he had 5 children in his lifetime! How's that going to help the cause? If everyone let their fecundity spill like Abbey, we would need 5 planets to support us. Don't get me wrong, I still like Abbey's essays and give this book a generous mark, but lately I started to read "beyond the pages".

The essays themselves in this book are fine, they lack a coherent theme (some were previously published) -- some are "been there, done that" kind of sketches; but on the other hand give one glimpses of different places, from the Mexico to Alaska. Besides "A Walk in the Desert Hills", "Gather at the River" which is about a river rafting (outfitted) journey down theKongakut River in Alaska, is also an interesting essay, offering some of Abbey's ruminations about our last "frontier" (or, as he puts it, "the last pork chop"). "A Colorado River Journal", which is a jovial piece about another outfitted rafting trip, is somewhat different in style than his other essays and books.

I still think Desert Solitaire is his best book, even though in his old age Abbey thought that he was too tame in that book and he hated to be labeled a "naturalist" or "nature writer" (he explained some of this in the introduction of Beyond the Wall). But for myself, I think Abbey was rather too cranky for his own good in his later years.

5-0 out of 5 stars Best of Abbey
The first two pieces in this collection provide the best introduction to Abbey I can think of. "A Walk in the Desert Hills" describes a 115-mile walk across the Sonoran Desert, in search of adventure, wisdom, and water."How It Was" describes his first incursions into the Four Corners and Glen Canyon area, before the pavement came."How It Was" will make you understand what got Abbey intoxicated with the desert."A Walk ..." tells why it was still more magical than bourbon even thirty years later.For these two pieces alone this is my favorite of Abbey's books.The remainder of the pieces in the book, which describe forays around the Colorado River region, the Sea of Cortez, and a rafting trip in northern Alaska, are pure, delightful gravy.

5-0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Simplicity
Although Desert Solitaire is Abbey's most popular work of non-fiction and is an undeniable American masterpiece, Beyond the Wall in many ways surpasses it in its praise of the beauty and granduer of nature and as a meditation on humanity's place in it. As a work primarily concerned with Abbey's experiences on several hiking/camping trips alone in the Desert, from Southern Colorado, and West Texas, through theNew Mexico and Arizona wilds to the Sea of Cortez, the reader is allowed an glimpse into his psyche that is unsurpassed in these quiet revelations, documented in many a lonely, but not lonesome walk. In Beyond the Wall, Abbey is closest to his comparison with Thoreau, in the way that the simple description of Nature itself is the focus of this work. In many ways this book is both a eulogy and a celebration of Glen Canyon and raw unspoiled Nature.
Whether narrating "a Walk Through Desert Hills" or a "float trip down the doomed Glen Canyon, Abbey's awareness of the subtle force of nature is everpresent, and is expressed in the metaphoric image of Freedom and Wilderness versus industrial insanity and slavery. In many ways, what is beyond the wall is the possibility of our unmeditated communion with nature. And although this wall seems forminable, it can be overcome simply by venturing off the beaten path into a wilderness unknown to many. His solution lies in the simple concept of reestablishing an intimate relationship with Nature, which is deprived of so many today. Thus, in becoming acquainted with our environments and surroundings we will be much more involved in saving what is there. The case of Glen Canyon is a sad illustration of this, for despite its stunning beauty and granduer, which Abbey claimed surpassed even that of the Grand Canyon, it was destroyed simply because not enough people had experienced it and too few cared enough to save it.
In reading the essays in Beyond the wall, Ed introduces us to one way that we can all get beyond the walls that alienate us from nature and ultimately ourselves. And since this book can only guide us so far, it is we that must take the next step and decide on what side of the wall we want to live our lives.

4-0 out of 5 stars Why walk in a desert? Why get off the sofa at all?
This is a fine collect of 10 early hikes and float trips Abbey made mostly in the high deserts of the American Southwest.The last takes place in Alaska.In "A Walk in the Desert Hills" Abbey tells of a solo hike across more than 100 miles with only his backpack and the hope that water will be found in natural tanks.What, the reader may ask, compels a man to undertake such a trek with only a belief that salvation lies ahead in a bowl shaped stone (tanks) filled with rain water, and then further on, perhaps another, and hopefully another still?Throughout the book he answers this question by showing us the hidden beauty of slot canyons, how the Colorado looked beneath the flooded Glen Canyon before the dam and shares with us his discovery of petroglyphs and pictographs whose meanings still remains unknown.This is Abbey when his desert world was still new, before the roads and bridges and dams he hated changed it all.This is the world beyond the wall, his world."Beyond the wall of the unreal city, beyond the security fences topped with barbed wire and razor wire, beyond the asphalt belting of superhighways, beyond the cemented banksides of our temporarily stopped and mutilated rivers, beyond the rage of lies that poison the air, there is another world waiting for you.It is the old true world of the deserts, the mountains, the forests, the islands, the shores, the open plains, Go there ...into the ancient blood-thrilling primeval freedom of those vast and democratic vistas.You will never understand the secret essence of the word freedom until you do."

Abbey was as about as free as a man can get.

5-0 out of 5 stars abbey's finest hike
ed abbey's tromp through the american wilderness in search of a definitive ideology and a few tankfuls of water allow the reader to believe in theunderdog's points of view......whether you agree with them or not.Awesomebook!!!! ... Read more

15. Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast
by Edward Abbey
Paperback: 336 Pages (2007-08-28)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$4.94
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Asin: 1571312854
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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But hell, I do like to write letters. Much easier than writing books.” And write letters Ed Abbey did. In his famous — or infamous — 45-year career, Abbey’s cards and letters became as legendary as his books for their wit, vitriol, and ability to speak truth to power. Published here for the first time, the letters offer a fascinating, often hilarious glimpse into the mind of one of America’s most iconoclastic and beloved authors. No subject was too banal, too arcane, or too deep for Abbey to expound on: sex, cheerleaders, Mormons, Aspen, and the Bond girls are covered as gleefully as Stegner, Dylan, Chomsky, Buddhism, and betrayal. Whether scolding an editor to simplify (“I’ve had to waste hours erasing that storm of fly-shit on the typescript”) or skewering the chicken-hawk proponents of the war in Vietnam, Abbey’s righteous indignation gives hope and inspiration to a generation that desperately needs both.
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Customer Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars Very Enjoyable View of Abbey
I was a bit skeptical about the format of this book:reprinting many of Ed Abbey's prolific output of letters and notecards.I put off reading it for a long time.I may not have even bought it in the first place, except that I am a rabid [sic] Abbey fan and this promised a few more nibbles of his caustic wit and incisive puncturing of the pompous (or just the very large.)I'm very glad I did:This is a fun, big helping of more of Ed to enjoy -- with a slightly different and more intimate angle.(We did lose him WAY too soon, too young, too long gone; the world is a much poorer place without him.Tomorrow, it will be 20 years (!) since he passed.)

The book is a compilation of selected letters and postcards written by Abbey throughout his life.They deal with, mainly, literature, the environment, and some on his personal life or his friends' personal lives.It's a bit like a 30,000-foot autobiography told in correspondence.

The great thing about it, and in contrast to his journals (the published versions of which I own), is that each letter or note is like a condensed essay.It's not just rambling, like most of the journals, interesting as they are.These short pieces were written for specific audiences with specific purposes in mind; and this is what makes them special.Abbey brought his craft to bear on them, because they mattered to him.If you can use the metaphor of an oil-painting for his novels and say a wood-cut or lithograph for one of his essays and doodles for his journals, I would call these short pieces line drawings.Very enjoyable line drawings, well-executed and with plenty of vigor.

Highly recommended to any fan of Ed Abbey.

3-0 out of 5 stars Interesting collection of letters
This book collects the letters of Edward Abbey, author and provocateur.If you don't know and enjoy his books such as "Desert Solitaire" or "The Monkey Wrench Gang," you should read those first.If you've read his books and want more Ed, then this is the book for you.

The letters are arranged chronologically but fall into a few recurring categories.He writes often to his agents and his publishers, both about money and about his works in progress.You see glimpses of how Ed works through these letters.He also wrote a large number of letters to various newspapers, some under pseudonyms.He wrote, of course, many letters to his friends, and these are surprisingly blunt.I sometimes marveled that he had any friends left.There are surprisingly few letters to his family, even though his oldest children lived some distance from him over the years covered in these letters.His family side does not come across at all well, except for pride in his very young children with fifth wife.

These short letters are, to varying degrees, pithy, insightful, iconoclastic and funny.They show some different sides of Edward Abbey but won't really surprise any fans of his other books.

[Three stars because the book has a pretty narrow audience; it's probably a four star book for hardcore Abbey fans.]

5-0 out of 5 stars Probably the last new Abbey book to be published?
I couldn't wait for this excellent collection of Cactus Ed's letters and infamous postcards to finally come out, if only because like all of us here I've been missing Ed all these years since his demise in 1989. This world is definitely a lesser place without Ed's literary contributions and overall inspiration. Way back in 1980 Edward Abbey mailed me my very own postcard, in response to a letter I had sent him only a week earlier. I've kept that card tucked into my autographed 1st edition of Desert Solitaire ever since. Now I have moved it into the pages of Postcards From Ed, which only seems right.
I hope I am wrong and there is more unpublished Abbey stuff out there. To a lifelong Abbey fan like myself it's all good, all still very relevant, still inspiring. Ed was an American Classic, in his writing and in his life. He will endure, as he should.

4-0 out of 5 stars Postcards from Ed
This is a tought book to review simply because the memory of Edward Abbey (b.1927 d.1989)is still so fresh. If you disliked the writings of Ed Abbey you wouldn't read this book if they gave it away, the subject was that kind of writer.

If you read and enjoyed Ed. Abbey, I include mydelf in this group, it is a fun read down memory lane. Abbey's two most influential books are "Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness" who his fan consider to be the 20th. Centuries "Walden" and "The Monkey Wrench Gang" the inspiration for "Earth First" are widely refered to here. The auther was neither a Thoreau nor a bomb throwing arsonist. True he was an excentrict in the image of one of his heros Hunter Thompson, but he did know the limits, Abbey did enjoy the debauchery's of life be it women, drugs, booze or guns. Shooting up a discared home appliance while drunk followed by rough and tumble sex was a favorite way for Abbey to reduce stress.

"Postcards from Ed" is a collection of his letters to friends, he often wrote them on a postcards, thus the title that David Petterson chose. They are only a small sample of what he wrote, most have been lost or destroyed by the receivers because they were to blunt and/or insulting. Those that did make it into the book will be enjoyed by his fans as reminders about the man and the stages of his life. There are no return letters so it's strickly a one way trip. All the language and blunt insults that have come to be associated with Ed Abbey are here.

5-0 out of 5 stars Good Insight into the Life of a GreatWriter
David Petersen knew writer Ed Abbey and respected him highly.It shows in both collections David has put together about ol' Cactus Ed.This book, a collection of Abbey's letters to friends, family, other writers, business associates, publishers, and letters to the editor and op-ed sections of dozens of newpapers, is a very fine read if you have any desire to gain a deeper understanding of one of the more talented writers this country has produced.There is humor in these letters, as well as sadness, disappointment, love, teasing, heckling, arguing, and yes, some strong disapproval.

I recommend this and Dave Petersen's and Ed Abbey's other books very highly. ... Read more

16. Epitaph For A Desert Anarchist: The Life And Legacy Of Edward Abbey
by James Bishop
Paperback: 272 Pages (1995-10-01)
list price: US$18.95 -- used & new: US$9.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684804395
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Through Abbey's own writings and personal papers, as well as interviews with friends and acquaintances, Bishop gives us a penetrating, compelling, no-holds-barred view of tile life and accomplishments of this controversial figure. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars "Cactus Ed Lives..."
... certainly his legacy does, and both the man and his impact of the human and physical environment have been brought to life by James Bishop in this lively biography. Almost all biographers have a degree of empathy with their subject, and this is true of Bishop, but he does not gloss over Abbey's faults, which, even for his closest friends, could be infuriating. For example, at the beginning, Bishop says: "... so-called radical environmentalist who threw beer cans out of car windows (he hated paved highways), who advocated population control (yet fathered five children), and who loved the wilds (yet lived in the city)..."

Bishop presents a good mixture of the man, as well as his written works, with the most famous being "Desert Solitaire," about the year he spent in Utah as a park ranger, and "The Monkey Wrench Gang," his novel that inspired radical resistance to the relentless march of development (and is no doubt the main reason one has to pass through a metal detector when one visits Glen Canyon Dam.) As Abbey said about growth for growth's sake, it is the "ideology of a cancer cell."Abbey was never a gentle critic, with a polite, "but on the other hand,": "To oversee its aristocracy of over grazers, clear-cutters, strip-miners, widespread operations, this aristocracy employs a corps of flunky journalists, who manage the regional TV stations and newspapers, and a regiment of Quisling politicians."And that was only a small sample, so it was only natural for Bishop to ask the question, which he does: "Did he really believe what he said, or was he a poseur, doing it for money? Unquestionably, Abbey delighted in the put-on, the adolescent nose-tweaking, the hoodwinking..."

Based on numerous writings and comments, Abbey has been justly labeled a misogynist, so it was an important balance when Bishop included a meeting between him and a fellow Southwestern writer, Barbara Kingsolver. She was dreading the meeting, but came away impressed with his manners, et al. (at least on that day!)

I think Bishop best captured the contradictory spirit of Abbey when he said: "In many of Abbey's obituary notices, he was labeled as a cantankerous, misanthropic curmudgeon with many enemies. Abbey would have appreciated that, for his definition of a curmudgeon was anyone who hates hypocrisy, shame, dogmatic ideologies, the pretenses and evasions of euphemism--anyone who has the nerve to point out unpleasant facts, who takes the trouble to string those facts on the skewer of humor and roast them over the firs of empiric truth, common sense, and native intelligence. In this nation of bleating sheep and braying jackasses, he said, `it then becomes an honor to be labeled curmudgeon.'"

There is an important "companion" biography of Abbey, written by Doug Peacock, entitled "Walking it Off.," published 10 years after this work. Peacock is the Green Beret Vietnam war medic that Abbey modeled his character, George Washington Hayduke, after, in "The Monkey Wrench Gang. The later bio is "uptight and personal," and therefore not strictly a bio. In that book, you learn even more reasons to dislike Abbey, including the fact that he might have been able to live a number of additional years if he had sought medical treatment for his condition. And this was when Abbey had a wife with two small children. And I'm sure Peacock would agree with the familiar aphorism: "No man is hero to his valet."

But the rating should be on the quality of the biography, and not the quality of the man. Bishop captured the spirit and drive of the man, and his impact on the rest of us, while never losing sight of the flaws. It was well-written, and covered matters sufficiently, yet not to exhaustion. A well-done 5-stars.

1-0 out of 5 stars Thank you for playing, please try again later
I am sorry that the money was spent to give this book to me as a gift.It is not well researched and not well written.If you have bought everything that Abbey wrote, read it all, bought everything else, read them all, gone back and read at least Desert Solitare and Down the River again, then have to be able to say "I've read everything by and about Abbey"; well then you might, but only might, consider this book.Even then try to borrow it.In fact, I'll send you mine if I haven't tossed it.I have been an Abbey fan for years, not always agreeing but always admiring the point of view.This book was truely not worth my time, I am somewhat amazed that three other people thought it was.Oh well, just as you can say this about me I'll say it about them, there's no accounting for taste.

5-0 out of 5 stars Epitaph to a Great Writer
What a wonderful book! Reading it was like sitting with the author and talking about Ed Abbey over a couple of beers. Bishop's style is so smooth and relaxing. He could give a lesson to all current biographers: we don't need to know everytime the subject had tea with someone or tied his tie over the course of 800 pages! It was just the right mix of disscussion of his life and his books. The last chapter, "Farewell..." was very moving. Edward Abbey was a man I would have loved to have known personally because he was so interesting and caustic, and especially because I don't always agree with him, which makes an interesting mix. I have read 2 novels and 1 book of essays of Abbey's and look forward to reading everything else he has written. A real nice job by the author.

5-0 out of 5 stars Another treasure of the Southwest is found ... J. Bishop!
James P. Bishop, Jr. has created a vivid and real picture of a great man who was as human as the rest of us.I most enjoyed how Abbey's contrariness has been captured. After reading this book, not only do I feelI've come to know of Abbey in some small way, it has given me a greaterappreciation for the American Southwest and the need to speak out againstgovernment intervention.Written with frank truth and compassion ... arare combination.

5-0 out of 5 stars A superb, well-researched analysis of Edward Abbey.
"We shook hands once, but I never knew him personally, and I have mixed feelings about that. I would have liked to argue with him over cheap cigars and good tequila by a blazing river campfire under a sky full ofstars. But then, this would have been a different book, more of a personalmemoir." James Bishop, Jr. Despite misgivings of not knowing EdwardAbbey personally, Bishop has written a superb book on the legend of desertanarchist Cactus Ed. It is a well-researched, no-holds-barred, truthfulexpose of the mind, musings and legacy of an outrageous, outspoken man whowas devoted to preserving the American Southwest wilderness for himself anda select few who would truly understand, preserve and love itunequivocally. Bishop, a polished and professional writer of many yearswith Newsweek, leaves no saguaro thorn or blossom untouched in his thoroughand objective rendering of the subjects life, personality, writings andstill living legacy. Often labeled the "Thoreau of the AmericanWest," the talented and tenacious Abbey was the promoter of ecodefenseand ecosabotage; advocating anarchy to prevent the government and touristindustry from ruining the wilderness. In his twenty-one published books,the most popular being "The Monkey Wrench Gang" and "DesertSolitaire", Abbey shows to have been a determined, cantankerous,frustrated and angry, yet unique and colorful persona. Many detested him;especially those who were to receive financial gain from developing, pavingor civilizing the west for tourism or the development of power plants atthe cost of damning nature, pun intended. Abbey, certainly a masterwordsmith as well, expounds a continuous theme: a surly hatred of progressand dogmatic devotion to wilderness preservation. If the admirable andperplexing Abbey could be summed up in one word, it would have to becurmudgeon; applying his wrath and logic at will depending upon mood andprovocation, yet one with a delight of stirringmotions within others andthen impishly standing back to watch the results.Abbey's theme andwriting niche was discovered early in life; the constant rebellion toprogress, pomp and formality were seemingly intentional. Despite his denialand distaste for finances, both theme and writing paid well. "Love ofwilderness" Abbey wrote in Desert Solitaire, "is an expression ofloyalty to the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we willever know, the only paradise we ever need --- if we only have eyes tosee." In his constant struggle to protect the environment from thegovernment, developers and ourselves, Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gangimplies his fictional delight in openly seeking to enrage others to thepoint of "monkey wrenching" the governments Glen Canyon Dam Project bydamaging equipment or floating dynamite-filled boats to the dam while theribbon cutting ceremony was taking place. As long as no one got hurt andhe, admittedly the one who didn't have the courage to pull the plug orpress the handle setting off the dynamite, it was fine with him. So openwas Abbey in his determination of stopping progress that the FBI had agentsassigned to watch and report on him for most of his adult life. Alas, thestruggle of Abbey and his devotees to prevent what many called necessary"growth and progress" was as futile as those who in present dayblame Columbus for the genocide of native Americans and eventual take overof two entire continents by Europeans and others. It was and is,inevitable. If Columbus didn't do it, someone else would have.Theenvirons of Abbey's Southeast Utah stomping grounds of the 1950s, resembleslittle of what it is today, and, regretfully,nothing of what "growthand progress" will deem its state and existence a hundred years fromnow. We come, we see and, for environments demise, we conquer. Anyoneinterested in understanding more of Edward Abbey, need only read DesertSolitaire, written in 1968 from essays he wrote in the mid-50s whileworking as an isolated National Parks employee in Arches National Monumentnear Moab, Utah. "This is the most beautiful place on earth."Abbey wrote, yet he ended his employment there after two seasons due to themonument becoming"developed and improved so well that I had toleave." The reader seeking complete insight of the unique and complexEdward Abbey should read Epitaph of a Desert Anarchist. "Any writerwho is dead and still raises hackles must have done his workproperly," eulogized fellow writer and friend Chuck Bowden. Abbey andBishop have both done their work well. ... Read more

17. Fire on the Mountain
by Edward Abbey
Paperback: 192 Pages (1992-04-01)
list price: US$12.99 -- used & new: US$7.29
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Asin: 0380714604
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Fire on the Mountain

Grandfather John Vogelin's land is his life -- a barren stretch of New Mexican wilderness, mercifully bypassed by civilization. Then the government moves in. And suddenly the elderly, mule-stubborn rancher is confronting the combined land-grabbing greed of the County Sheriff, the Department of the Interior, the Atomic Energy Commission and the U.S. Air Force. But a tough old man is like a mountain lion: if you back him into a corner, he'll come out fighting.

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Customer Reviews (15)

4-0 out of 5 stars My first Edward Abbey novel
"Is Heaven better than this place?" I asked.
"The climate's a little better here," Grandfather answered.
"Less humility," Lee said.

I lived in New Mexico for several years though not from the sparsely populated setting of Edward Abbey's novel, Fire on the Mountain. Still, it hardly matters where you are. There's something about the piercing blue sky and the forever landscape which, if given a chance, will become a part of you. Edward Abbey does a superior job describing this feeling; the first half of the novel being devoted almost entirely to this longing for the land.

Billy is the visiting grandson of the rancher John Vogelin, who is being forced off his land to make way for the expansion of the White Sands Missile Range. The story, told from Billy's point of view, shows the struggle of a stubbornly proud old man who won't go quietly. How do the values and convictions of one man and his grandson stand up against the might, and legal right, of the United States government? As is turns out, the answer is anything but simple.

4-0 out of 5 stars What Billy does on his summer vacation
In his novel FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN, naturalist, intellectual anarchist, and environmentalist author Edward Abbey (1927-1989) brings young Billy Vogelin Starr out from Pittsburgh to New Mexico for his annual summer visit with his 70-year old maternal grandfather, cattle ranch owner John Vogelin.

Having previously read Abbey's Desert Solitaire, this book is apparently an illustration of the author's deeply-held, personal beliefs in two parts. The first is a tribute to Edward's beloved American Southwest, a church in which he worships and which, he believes,is under constant threat of misuse, if not outright desecration, by the central government's public land use policies. The second part is Abbey's conviction that such federal encroachment on the pristine wilderness (and, indeed, on one's personal liberties) needs to be resisted by the rugged individualist.

As in DESERT SOLITAIRE, the author here strives to word-paint a vivid picture of the sights, smells and sounds of his idolized landscape. As an example, from Billy's perspective on horseback:

"The vegetation changed as we gained elevation, the brush of the desert yielding place to parks of pinyon pine and juniper and thickets of shiny green scrub oak. I could smell the sweet scent of resin and pine needles, and heard, from somewhere up ahead, the excited clamor of flocks of pinyon jays. I saw a redheaded woodpecker dart through the air and land on a dead and lightning-blasted jackpine. Some of the juniper tress stood decked out in showers of tiny berries the color of turquoise; I plucked a berry and bit into it - hard, bitter, the flavor of turpentine - or gin."

The conflict portion of the story is John Vogelin's resistance to the military's confiscatory takeover of his ranch in order to expand the White Sands Missile Range testing grounds. It's here that the narrative is perhaps laden with nuances; I don't know enough about the author to say with certainty. One might argue that Abbey is remembering his young self in the character of Billie, who's roughly 13 years of age, and envisioning his eventual old self in the character of the grizzled, unyielding rancher. The transitional persona between the two, perhaps reflecting the author's internal debate over his philosophical beliefs at the time of the book's writing, is Lee Mackie, John's middle-aged, long-time friend and Billie's hero. Knowing that the elder Vogelin can't prevail against the government, Lee tries to steer his friend towards a compromise using carefully reasoned and totally reasonable arguments.

Purely as an entertainment vehicle, FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN is not without flaw. The lead-up to the eventual confrontation between John and the authorities is prolonged almost to the point of tedium. And the conclusion of events is anticlimactic (as real life ofttimes is). However, as a window on Edward Abbey's core beliefs, the book should be indispensable to any of the controversial author's fans.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fun to read from beginning to end!
Author Edward Abbey carries the baggage of being an environmental activist in addition to his career as a writer.This book, first published in 1962, is considered a forerunner to The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975), although I'm not certain Abbey would agree.I look at it more as a book in which Abbey demonstrates his understanding of the natural world, and the various attitudes of people toward Nature.

It's not that long of a story.Rancher John Vogelin's ranch in New Mexico is being seized by the federal government to expand a missile test range.Vogelin disagrees, and the various law enforcement agencies team up to get Vogelin off the ranch.This story is told through the eyes of Billy, Vogelin's grandson.In the meantime, Vogelin and his friend Lee educate Billy about what today we call environmental ethics.The land is more than space and area.It is processes, history, and life.There are coyotes and magpies and vultures and mountain lions.There are cattle to be found and gates to be closed.There are horses to find and coffee to be drunk.What will Vogelin, and Lee, and Billy do?When it is one rancher versus the US Government, who will win?

The answer will surprise you.

This book covers a lot of topics, and you have to read it today with an understanding of the happenings in the late 50s and early 60s.The Cold War was a major event in the world.This is before the major environment-related Congressional Acts; before the Endangered Species Act, the stronger Clean Water and Air Acts,and the National Environmental Protection Act.It is before the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency.Rachel Carson didn't "launch" the environmental movement until her book, Silent Spring, came out also in 1962.There is a real "biodiversity is good" element in the book, as well as a western-style, cowboy independence.

Other issues raised in this book are the meaning of friendship, the influence on children of adults, the sense and spirit of place, and the role of each citizen to maintain their well-being as well as the well-being of society.

My two favorite passages:

[Grandfather to Billy]"Did you wash your face and brush your teeth?"
[Billy] "Yes."
"This morning on the train."
Grandfather thought for a moment."Fine - well, good night, Billy."
"Goodnight, sir." [p. 20]


[Billy asking Grandfather and Lee a question]"Will a lion attack a man?" I asked.
"What for?" Grandfather said.
"The meat."
Lee grinned at me."A lion will never attack a man unless the lion is too old or too sick to catch decent game.Or unless the lion is cornered, or angry, or wounded, or bored, or curious, or very hungry, or just plain mean."
"Thank you," I said. "That answers my question." [p. 35]

An intriguing book.Recommended.

5-0 out of 5 stars The genesis of the "Monkeywrench Gang"
In the fictional "Fire on the Mountain," published in 1962, it's pretty clear that Edward Abbey's ideas about individual liberty and wilderness preservation are pretty well developed, but not yet completely evolved.That philosophical evolution comes to it's glorious apex in "The Monkeywrench Gang," a dozen or so years down the road, but nevertheless, "Fire on the Mountain," is vintage Abbey of his "Desert Solitaire" period and well worth reading.

The way I read Abbey, it's clear he inserts himself into his fictional characters.Fire on the Mountain is no exception and you can see Abbey in all three of the heroes of the book.The book itself is about an aging, but very spirited and independent small rancher, John Vogelin, who's ranch property in New Mexico unfortunately butts up against the White Sands Missile Range, which for purposes of "national security," is being expanded in area.Vogelin's ranch will become part of the WSMR and Vogelin won't have a choice in the matter.Vogelin then fights back.

The other heroes are Vogelin's junior-high age grandson, Billy Starr (Billy's from the East and he's on summer vacation -- he visits his grandpa every summer) and his onetime ranch hand-turned-real estate entrepeneur (and idol of young Billy), Lee Mackie.

The story is about Vogelin's bitter struggle with the US government and the bureaucrats working for the "G" in charge of getting Vogelin to accept the government's terms (generous for those days) and get Vogelin "resettled." Vogelin won't leave his ranch and indicates he'll shoot and kill "the first man that touches my ranch house" and that he'll have to be killed by the US Marshals in order to leave.Billy loves the land as much as his grandpa and would stay to the death with him if he could. Mackie is torn between sticking with the old man and persuading him to accept the reality -- and inevitability -- of the situation and leave peacefully with his life and a fattened bank account.Vogelin won't take the government's money and he refuses to leave.

Abbey's utter contempt for a governmental institution that would take away our personal liberty while destroying wilderness is expressed in the resolute John Vogelin as he struggles against all odds to keep his ranch and his land.The impersonal, yet slick bureaucrats in charge of trying to get him off his land and their less-than-bright operatives providing the muscle are both treated with equal disdain by Abbey in the book.

Vogelin's ranch land is part of a wild, rugged, spectacular high desert landscape and with Abbey describing Vogelin's, Billy's and Lee's various sojourns into the surrounding land and mountains, it's clear he's traveled those roads and trails on horseback as did his heroes.In my opinion, Abbey is almost peerless in his ability to describe the often overlooked subtleties in a wilderness landscape -- especially of a desert wilderness.Sometimes, it's those little points of observation by Abbey that helps us to see even more in what is already stunning beyond imagination.I digress, but the fun part is to walk those same trails, ride those same rivers and trails and put one's own powers of observation to work....

There are a number of twists and turns in the plot, but in general, it's a pretty straightforward and credible story.I'm not going to give away the ending, but it's a good one and one I think an Abbey reader would like.I think Ed saw himself in all three of his main characters at that point (and throughout the book -- even in the conflicted Lee Mackie) and in some way, it was a bit prophetic too, as he faced his own mortality in the late 80s.

I'll give it 5 stars, with the caveat that while it's probably not his best work -- it's still really good.

4-0 out of 5 stars The desert between covers
This was the very first book of Edward Abbey's I ever read, back when I was a seventeen year old college freshman.
And it wasn't the last.
It was my last year of college though, and I have to blame, at least in part, this book's author.Edward Abbey loved the desert.He loved the West, with a jealous, protective, sincere love, a love that spills from every page of his books, and that seeps into his readers.Read one Abbey novel, and the odds are, you'll read more.Read more, and the odds are, you'll start to listen to what he has to say about the desert, and about the outdoors.Somehow I went from going to classes, to reading books like this, to living out of a canoe in southern Utah.It's that kind of a read.Abbey's writing is just good enough to motivate a person to get out into he desert himself--but it can't replace the experience of the desrt itself (like Cormac McCarthy sometimes almost does)--and maybe he was never going for that anyway.
In this book, Abbey's terse, playful, anarchistic style and philosophy is still emerging, not yet crystalized into the clearer sentiments of "Desert Solitaire," but--on the positive side--not yet twisted into the cranky diatribes and caricatures of "Hayduke Lives."
The book is the story of a boy visiting his grandfather in New Mexico, at the same time that his grandfather is about to be evicted from his property so that the government can turn the family ranch into additional acreage for White Sands Missile Range.The characters are convincing, the natural descriptions are minimal yet evocative, and the gentle desert tone--with the exception of a few rough spots where Abbey's strident rants overwhelm the voice of the story's supposedly innocent, supposedly naive, child narrator--is spot on.
This is a book I would be proud to have written.It's a chance to see Edward Abbey's voice and style in its earliest stages, and a lovely portrayal of west Texas and southern New Mexico.At times, it's also very funny.
Read this.Take it with you camping.If you like the desert and distrust the government, you'll probably like this book.If you only read one Abbey novel in your life, read...something else.But if you love Abbey's writing, or would like to, then really, pick up this one.Give it a shot. ... Read more

18. Good News: A Novel (Plume)
by Edward Abbey
Paperback: 242 Pages (1991-01-30)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$0.59
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0452265657
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (6)

3-0 out of 5 stars Is this the thesis Abbey wanted to write?
Edward Abbey graduated from the University of New Mexico with a MS in philosophy.His 1959 thesis was titled "Anarchism and the Morality of Violence."

Clearly, many of his books are a reflection of these earlier musings.Good News is his sci-fi expression of anarchism.

In Good News, society has collapsed, particularly in areas that were inhabited by high densities of humans, such as Phoenix, that required extraordinary infusions of energy, particularly west of the 100th meridian.Without energy, there was no water delivery, storage, and irrigation.No modern agriculture.No city infrastructure maintenance.No mega-transportation system.

No centralized government.

Jack Burns is on a mission to be reunited with his son, who he hasn't seen or contacted for over two decades.He travels with his friend, Sam, a Native American with unique powers.He falls into a crowd of anarchists who are fighting against a quasi-military government ruled by "the Chief".The Chief accepts execution and torture as necessary to maintain order.The anarchists want to destroy all records of government.

Abbey has written, "Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners."This philosophy is expressed in Ayn Rand style in Good News.

According to Abbey, this potential future is very dark, and humanity collapses as the strong bully the weak.The back cover of this book states "With this boldly satirical imaginary world, Edward Abbey asks us to look around and take stock of what we value before it is too late."I would not categorize this book as "satirical."I would say that this book was Abbey's continued experimentation into ways to express his dissatisfaction with the status quo in the west.After all, "Society is like a stew. If you don't stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top."

And Abbey liked his stew.

4-0 out of 5 stars One of Abbey's Better Novels
Abbey is at his doomsday best with this tale that leaves a glimmer of hope that we can yet save ourselves. Say what what you want about Abbey (narcissistic, sexist, moody), the guy could write!He was also ahead of his time in his warnings about our abuse of the environment!

4-0 out of 5 stars A Nest of Anarchists
Edward Abbey's novels displayed his Sagebrush-style conservationist ideals, and his near-Anarchist sentiments took greatest root here. This is a near-future dystopia tale in which a thinly described economic disaster has forced most people to flee Abbey's beloved desert southwest, leaving just a few hardy naturalist survivors trying to create a non-government lifestyle. Meanwhile the wasted city of Phoenix becomes the base for a big-thinking ex-military man who wants to take control of all of humanity and eliminate dissenters who stand in his way. This novel is overflowing with excellent and thought-provoking political philosophy, especially when it comes to the exact meaning of "freedom" and how that term is actually defined by whoever has power. Unfortunately, this book's politics may be a little outdated, because nowadays I suspect that a western power-hungry demagogue would be the exact ideological opposite of Abbey's villain here (this guy's a socialist). The novel has a few other problems, such as longwinded and tiresome monologues from the characters. Most of the action is rather predictable chase scenes, and the story is capped off by an inconclusive ending, which cries out for a sequel that never appeared. This is a very hard-hitting and thought-provoking novel, but Abbey's basic ideas are better defined elsewhere. [~doomsdayer520~]

5-0 out of 5 stars Forget '1984'
This is not only one of Abbey's best novels but a great novel in its own right.As both a city and a country dweller I can not only relate but confirm much of his notion that cities are not nearly as healthy for a man's soul as the country is.In addition this is a great story about social decay and what it takes to over come the challanges that arise from such a situation.We have grown soft and forgetful of what our forefathers went through to create a country like ours and this book gives a realistic and easy to swallow insight into their frames of mind and their state of heart.This is the wild west and the futurama all mixed together with an iron fisted military group to boot.I still can't believe this was never made into a movie.

5-0 out of 5 stars A rare anarcho-classic!
Abbey's best work will always be his essays, but this novel is one of those "forgotten" dystopian classics that deserves much more attention. Forget Orwell's "1984." It's too European. Forget Levin's "This Perfect Day." It's too fantastic. Abbey has written the best post-apocalypse American novel to date. And his politics, as always, ring true. Up the rebels! An anarcho-classic ... Read more

19. Brave Cowboy
by Edward Abbey
Paperback: 320 Pages (1992-04-01)
list price: US$13.99 -- used & new: US$4.13
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0380714590
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Jack Burnes is a loner at odds with modern civilization. A man out of time, he rides a feisty chestnut mare across the New West -- a once beautiful land smothered beneath airstrips and superhighways. And he lives by a personal code of ethics that sets him on a collision course with the keepers of law and order. Now he has stepped over the line by breaking one too many of society's rules. The hounds of justice are hot in his trail. But Burnes would rather die than spend even a single night behind bars. And they have to catch him first.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (18)

4-0 out of 5 stars Independence, ethics, nature, freedom, and adventure, all wrapped into one book!
Jack Burns is a cowboy on a mission.He wants to break his friend out of jail, a punishment doled out for failure to register for the draft.Burns gets himself thrown in jail, finds his friend, escapes, and leads the local sheriff and others on a chase.

But nothing in the previous three sentences is exactly as it sounds.Burns isn't just a cowboy.The sheriff isn't just a redneck buffoon.His friend has other ideas about jail.Escape has a price.

Edward Abbey develops the character of Jack Burns in great detail, and Burns returns in Abbey's later post-apocalypse novel, Good News.

This is Abbey's second novel, and you can envision the train of thoughts that lead to some of his later works, including Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang:

"The great cliffs leaned up against the flowing sky, falling through space as the earth revolved, turning amber as whiskey in the long-reaching lakes of light from the evening sun.But the light had no power to soften the jagged edges and rough-spalled planes of the granite; in that clear air each angle and crack cast a shadow as harsh, clean, sharp, real, as the rock itself - so that though they had endured as they were for ten million years, the cliffs held the illusion of a terrible violence suddenly arrested, paralyzed in time, latent with power" (p. 189).

This particular edition (University of New Mexico Press, tenth printing, 1990) has an afterward written by Neal E. Lambert.Lambert notes "For this new edition, Abbey requested that the lines announcing Burn's death be dropped.Broken as he is, the cowboy must be allowed to continue" (p. 285).This makes a lot of sense, given that Abbey himself resurrects Burns for his later works.

An entertaining yarn.People who dislike Abbey's politics may still enjoy his stories.This is one they should try.

5-0 out of 5 stars superfantastic
Jail breaks, gun fights with lawmen, cooking beans in the desert -- I love it!

4-0 out of 5 stars A Voice From The Past - Still Worth Reading
This book has been in my bookcase for sometime and I am not clear where it came from. Perhaps a Christmas present. Perhaps an impulse purchase as I enjoy this author, even though we are politically poles apart.

Regardless, I noticed it a few days ago and started reading it and was once again immersed in Edward Abbey's view of life from fifty-two years ago.

Jack Burn's and Paul Bondi are friends that go way back although they have drifted apart. Burn's rides back into the Bondi's life on the back of a fractious young horse he has named Whiskey only to find that his friend is in the County Jail awaiting transfer to a federal penitentary for failing to register for the draft.

Burns has an idea that if he can get into the jail, he can break his friend out and they can though go live in the mountains until the law gets tired of looking for them. He manages to get himself arrested and it looks as though his screwball plan may in fact work...except Bondi will have no part of it. He has two years to serve and a wife and child to return to. His days of protesting and supporting anarchy are over.

Burns and a couple of others manage the escape and part their seperate ways. It has come to the attention of the authorities that Burns, like Bondi has protested the Draft Registration Law and are interested in interrogating him. But first they have to find him.

The balance of the book is taken over with the search for Burns by the authorities which allows Abbey to trot out many of his political views in an entertaining way in the point and counterpoint action between the hunters and the hunted.

Even fifty-six years after it's original publication this is a book still worth reading notwithstanding the preface that Abbey writes:

"This is only a story. None of it really happened. How could it? How could such people be? The prisoner is probably a professor. The sheriff loses the next election. The truckdriver died of emphysema. And as for the cowboy, that character, why nobody even knows where he is anymore. Or even, to be honest, if he ever really was."

Right. Only a story. But, there are stories, and there are stories. This is one you will remember.

3-0 out of 5 stars An Ed Abbey Classic, but it's no Moneky Wrench Gang
If you're a fan of Ed Abbey, you really ought to read this book.It's not his best work, because his views are presented with a very thin plot.The image of the cowboy riding down the freeway was lovely, however and it doesn't feel too preachy.I would recommend Monkey Wrench Gang or Desert Solitaire to anyone just breaking into Abbey's work.They're simply better peices and frankly, they appear to have been written for a more educated audience than Brave Cowboy.

Brave Cowboy is a quick, easy read that will entertain you and will help clarify Abbey's views on freedom, men and women.It's unlikely you'll agree with him, but the subtext of the book will make you think more than the plot itself.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brave Author, Great Publisher
While other reviews will give you a plot synopsis and their reaction to the book, or a comparison with the movie, "Lonely Are The Brave," I will limit my review to a few off the wall observations.First, I liked this book a lot and believe the adaptation by Dalton Trumbo to be one of the most faithful by any screenwriter.Often it is difficult not to think of the movie a book is based on while reading it (if you've seen the movie first).But Abbey is so good he made me forget I'd seen the movie and allowed me to lose myself in his words and story.So, a great book, well written, that didn't back away from some of the political hot potatoes most writers and publishers would rather avoid (draft dodging, property rights, etc.).

Few books have made me cry at the end -- usually it's when I think of the time and money wasted on them.This one left me in tears because of a profound sense of loss of another kind, the loss of men such as John W. Burns, the loss of the maverick, the loss of a true voice of the west, and the loss of a west that we will never know except through books and movies.

But one thing impressed me as much as the contents of the book -- its binding.Rarely does anyone discuss this, but I have to say that this edition is the best bound I've ever read.The spine was not stiff and the pages were very flexible allowing me to read one handed almost anywhere.If all paperbacks used this same binding, I wouldn't have to replace my often-read books every eight or nine years.So, from this perspective, the publisher is allowing Abbey's work a much longer life in one edition.Possibly a tribute to Abbey's philosophy, or merely a coincidence, either way I remain impressed by this.This may be the only paperback I own that I can pass to my grandson, as is, for his enjoyment in the future. ... Read more

20. Journeys of Simplicity: Traveling Light with Thomas Merton, Basho, Edward Abbey, Annie Dillard, & Others
by Philip Harnden
Paperback: 112 Pages (2007-08-30)
list price: US$12.99 -- used & new: US$7.81
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1594731810
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Where do our journeys take us?
What do we leave behind?
What do we carry with us?
How do we find our way?

You are invited to consider a more graceful way of traveling through life. With arresting clarity, Journeys of Simplicity offers vignettes of forty travelers and the few, ordinary things they carried with them--from place to place, from day to day, from birth to death.

Edward Abbey, Nellie Bly, Raymond Carver, Dorothy Day, Marcel Duchamp, Dolores Garcia, Emma "Grandma" Gatewood, Mohandas Gandhi, Peter Matthiessen, William Least Heat Moon, John Muir, Robert Pirsig, Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, Henry David Thoreau, Father Zossima, and others. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars The Dream of Simplicity
Most of us are in risk of being overwhelmed by our pursuit of "stuff." Let's just take babies as an example. It appears that strollers for toddlers must now cover almost half an acre and contain sufficient storage for any possible medical or hygienic emergency. Young married couples feel the necessity to immediately buy a huge van that is effective only at cutting off the view of the hapless motorists behind you. Houses must be larger to contain the "stuff" we buy for our children. Why? Because if we don't, it means we don't love them, I suppose.

I must not have been loved very much. My father was a poor factory worker who drove a 1949 Mercury coupé. During all my childhood, I remember only a handful of toys: a set of white plastic blocks that were similar to the Legos that came later, various toy soldiers, a small Lionel O-Gauge electric train set, a stamp collection, a cowboy cap pistol, and a Civil War hat (Union Army type). That hat I wore with a blue cub scout shirt with captain's bars sown on that made me look like the boy Dusty on the old Rin Tin Tin show that I loved to watch.

Over the years, I seem to have gone astray somewhat. My apartment has well over 6,000 books in it. However much I resolve to cut down, I always find myself intrigued by another title that I must read. If I were to sit down and read all the books I own, I would have to live for hundreds of years more.

This slim volume was one of my recent purchases. I sat down to read it almost at once and fell in love with it. JOURNEYS OF SIMPLICITY is a book of lists of stuff with which selected real and fictional people traveled through their lives.

Some of the lists, such as the personal effects of Thomas Merton when he was found dead in a Bangkok hotel room after being electrocuted by his room fan, were heart-wrenching. In almost every case, they set off a little flash bulb of enlightenment. Each list was a window into a person's life (even if that "person" were Bilbo Baggins or Dostoyevsky's Father Zossima from THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV).

If ever I became a truly enlightened person? What would be on my list. Let me guess: a box of loose black Indian tea, a pot to boil water, a few (far less than 6,000) good books, a sweater, a jacket, two or three changes of clothing including wool socks, stout walking shoes, reading glasses, a hat -- and that's about it.

Oh yes, and one other thing -- a sense of wonder.

3-0 out of 5 stars It's Hard To Travel Lighter Than This
The small book devotes two pages each to about three dozen authors, spiritual seekers and fictional characters.One page briefly describes the person and something about their life and philosophy; the second provides a supposedly complete list of the small number of items each person lived with or took on a trip.It's thought provoking as to how much - or how little - stuff we really need to live a good life.At the same time it's a VERY brief book that can be read in about 30 minutes.Because there is a bibliography listing one or more sources for or about each person this book might best be considered an introduction/reference for those wanting to study the philosophy of simplicity.It's also a good inspirational gift for someone who wants to simplify their life.Too bad publishers don't provide little books like this for a more reasonable price. ... Read more

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