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Edward Abbey, novelist, anarchist, eco-defender, (1927-1989)

"Never before in history have slaves been so well fed, thoroughly medicated, lavishly entertained. But we are slaves nonetheless."

Biographical/historical note:

The late author Edward Abbey, 1927-1989, had written five novels & published three of them by the time Desert Solitaire: A season in the Wilderness was published in 1968.

While the rest of America was deeply divided over the Vietnam War, both in the killing fields of the Middle East & the streets of the U.S.A., Abbey was sitting on rocks contemplating his existence & that of the planet's from the remote perspective of what was then an obscure national monument in southeastern Utah called Arches.

From those ruminations in a rusty aluminum trailer with a rattlesnake living underneath came a book destined to become a classic, as much as Abbey detested classics, & never wanted to become one.

Like Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac & Rachel Carson's Silent Spring & Wendell Berry's The Unsettling of America, Desert Solitaire is one of a handful of books written in the 20th century regarding wilderness & the natural world & man's relationship to it that transcend their genre & speak to the world at large.

With the publication of Desert Solitaire almost 30 years ago Abbey single handedly created a new form of literature; neither travel narrative or nature writing, that lifts Desert Solitaire out of any category & ensures the book, & the author, will be read well into the 21st century & beyond.

Abbey has often been compared to Henry David Thoreau, a comparison Ed Abbey didn't take as a compliment. As the naturalist Ann Zwinger put it, speaking at the memorial wake at Arches National Park, when people compare Ed Abbey & Henry Thoreau, they usually forget that Thoreau went home for dinner every night. Ed Abbey's physical & philosophical travels often took him far away from a home cooked meal every night & into territory that Thoreau could only dream about.

Desert Solitaire & the comedic novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang are two works that will endure. & unlike most "classics," which they are much to the late author's disgust, these two books of his 21 published volumes will continue to be read into the next century & on to the next generations.

None of the author's 21 books, with the sole exception of the much hated first novel Jonathan Troy, have ever been out of print in over 40 years.

  • See the massive Abbey's Web

  • See "A Few Reflections" by Ernest Callenbach for further biographical information at the Ecology Hall of Fame, which includes extracts from his books, a bibliography & an excellent collection of links.


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