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Here is the only collection of writings compiled by Abbey himself, who writes in his own words, "to present what I think is both the best and most representative of my writing--so far." Included in this collection are generous selections of his best novels, such as The Brave Cowboy, Black Sun, and his classic The Monkey Wrench Gang, as well as many of his other, more expressive and acerbic essays. To add further interest, Abbey's own sketches are scattered throughout the text. This rich offering of fiction and prose is a testament to a singular American author, and offers an opportunity to become better acquainted with his abundant body of work.
What could Henry have said to this supposition? He lived in a relatively spacious America of only 24 million people, of whom one-sixth were slaves. A mere 140 years later we have grown to a population ten times larger, and we are nearly all slaves. We are slaves in the sense that we depend for our daily survival upon an expand-or-expire agro-industrial empire—a crackpot machine—that the specialists cannot comprehend and the managers cannot manage. We are, most of us, dependent and helpless employees. Poor Thoreau. But he could also write, in the late essay “Walking,” “The wildness of the savage is but a faint symbol of the awful ferity with which good men and lovers meet.” Ferity—now there’s a word. What could it have meant to Thoreau? Our greatest nature lover did not have a loving nature. A woman acquaintance of Henry’s said she’d sooner take the arm of an elm tree than that of Thoreau.
Aliens on this planet? Us? Who said so? Not me. And if I did, that was yesterday. Tonight I know better. We are not foreigners; we were born and we belong here. We are not aliens but rather like children, barely beginning here and now in the childhood of the race to discover the marvel, the magic, the mystery of this sweet planet that is our inheritance.
of leaving the earth, launching themselves by space shuttle and revolving
cannisters of aluminum into permanent orbit somewhere between here and the
moon. God speed them. While others plan the transformation of the earth through
technology into a global food factory, fusion-powered, computer-controlled,
supporting a close-packed semihuman population of 10 billion—twice the number
already stifling themselves in the mushroom cities of today. R. Buckminster
Fuller thinks it can be done. Herman Kahn thinksit can be done. The Pope thinks
it can be done. All good Marxists think it can be done. Their counterparts in
Europe, Brazil, China, Japan, Uganda, Mexico, everywhere, think it can be done.
And if itcan be done, therefore,by their
logic itmust be done. But Kahn and Fuller and
their look-alikes are in for many a surprise before that Golden Age of
Technocracy encloses us. (It never will.) As with all fools, their lives shall
consist of a constant succession of surprises, mostly unpleasant, as surprises
tend to be.
with malice and glee, I trudge up the trail, up the ridge, back to the tower.
Only one thing is lacking to complete my happiness. I want to wake at dawn with
a woman in my arms. I want to share the day’s beginning with her, while
woodpeckers drum on hollow snags of yellow pine and the sun rises into the
crimson clouds of morning. I want to share an orange, a pot of black cowboy coffee,
the calm and commonsense of breakfast talk, the smiles, the touch of
fingertips, the yearning of the flesh, the comradeship of man and woman, of one
uncertain human for another.
Abbey was one of the most prominent nature writers of the twentieth century. Although he resisted characterization as a “nature writer,” preferring to think of himself as a novelist, he is best remembered for his impassioned and often irreverent defense of American wilderness areas, particularly in the Southwest. Anarchistic and outspoken, he was called everything from America's crankiest citizen to the godfather of modern environmental activism. His nonfiction work Desert Solitaire (1968) is credited as being a key source of inspiration for the environmental movement, and his comic novel The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975), which follows the misadventures of four environmentalist terrorists, became an underground classic.Biographical Information
Abbey was born January 29, 1927, in the small Appalachian town of Indiana, Pennsylvania, though he often claimed he was born in the nearby town of Home, a name he found more evocative. The eldest of five children, he inherited some of his political concerns from his father, Paul Abbey, who was a registered socialist and an organizer for the International Workers of the World labor union. His mother, Mildred Postlewaite Abbey, was a teacher. Abbey learned his appreciation of nature from both his parents, who, during Abbey's early years maintained an itinerant lifestyle, moving the family frequently and, for a time in the early 1930s, living in a series of campsites.After graduating from high school in 1944, Abbey traveled to the West for the first time by walking, hitchhiking, and riding in boxcars. The trip left a lifelong impression. In 1945 Abbey was drafted into the Army and served for two years in Italy during World War II. Abbey later remarked that the experience turned him into an anarchist. After an honorable discharge he briefly attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania before moving to New Mexico to attend the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, where in 1951 he earned a degree in philosophy. Abbey spent the next two decades traveling abroad and living in New York while working as a seasonal park ranger and fire lookout for the National Park Service at several different national parks and monuments.In 1954 he published his first novel,Jonathan Troy, about a Pennsylvania youth who dreams of escaping to the West. His second novel, The Brave Cowboy (1956) was very successful, and in 1962 it was adapted into the movie Lonely Are the Brave.In 1968 Abbey published Desert Solitaire, which is considered his best work and the book on which his critical reputation rests. In 1987 Abbey was offered an award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, but he declined to accept. Abbey was married five times and suffered from intermittent periods of depression and physical ailments. Upon his death on March 14, 1989, his body was, upon his written instructions and against Arizona state law, placed inside his favorite sleeping bag, taken to a secret place in the desert, and covered with rocks.
Selected Works of Nonfiction by Edward Abbey
Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, 1968
Appalachian Wilderness, 1970
The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West, 1977
Abbey's Road, 1979
Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside, 1984
One Life at a Time, Please, 1988
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness: Notes from a Secret Journal, 1989
The Best of Edward Abbey (excerpts from fiction and nonfiction), 1992
Confessions of a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey, 1951-1989, edited by David Petersen, 1994
Of all Abbey's works, Desert Solitaire has garnered the most critical attention. Called a “minor classic” by one critic, Desert Solitaire contains explorations of most of Abbey's major thoughts on the environment, tourism, and human interference in wilderness areas. Abbey continued to detail his opinions in the subsequent collections of essays,The Journey Home (1977), Abbey's Road (1979), and One Life at a Time, Please (1988), which combine Abbey's reverence for the wild landscape with his contempt for a society—and government—that promotes destruction of the land. His novel The Monkey Wrench Gang traces the exploits of a group of vigilantes intent upon saving the desert from industrialization. While the novel maintains a comic tone, its message is serious: peaceful protest is inadequate to protect the environment. The novel is said to have inspired the formation of the real-life radical environmental group Earth First! Abbey intended The Fool's Progress (1988) to be his masterpiece. Picaresque and autobiographical, the novel tells the story of Henry Lightcap, who embarks on a 3,500-mile journey with his old dog to the place where he was born and raised. Abbey's last novel, Hayduke Lives! which was published posthumously in 1990, is a sequel to The Monkey Wrench Gang. Continuing the story of the radical environmentalists, the novel includes sketches of real Earth First! members. Earth Apples (1995) collects Abbey's previously unpublished poems that he had read aloud over the years.Major Works
Of all Abbey's works, Desert Solitaire has garnered the most critical attention. Called a “minor classic” by one critic, Desert Solitaire contains explorations of most of Abbey's major thoughts on the environment, tourism, and human interference in wilderness areas. Abbey continued to detail his opinions in the subsequent collections of essays,The Journey Home (1977), Abbey's Road (1979), and One Life at a Time, Please (1988), which combine Abbey's reverence for the wild landscape with his contempt for a society—and government—that promotes destruction of the land. His novel The Monkey Wrench Gang traces the exploits of a group of vigilantes intent upon saving the desert from industrialization. While the novel maintains a comic tone, its message is serious: peaceful protest is inadequate to protect the environment. The novel is said to have inspired the formation of the real-life radical environmental group Earth First! Abbey intended The Fool's Progress (1988) to be his masterpiece. Picaresque and autobiographical, the novel tells the story of Henry Lightcap, who embarks on a 3,500-mile journey with his old dog to the place where he was born and raised. Abbey's last novel, Hayduke Lives! which was published posthumously in 1990, is a sequel to The Monkey Wrench Gang.Continuing the story of the radical environmentalists, the novel includes sketches of real Earth First! members. Earth Apples (1995) collects Abbey's previously unpublished poems that he had read aloud over the y
Abbey was born in Indiana, Pennsylvania on January 29, 1927 to Mildred Postlewait and Paul Revere Abbey. Mildred was a schoolteacher and a church organist, and gave Abbey an appreciation for classical music and literature. Paul was a socialist, anarchist, and atheist whose views strongly influenced Abbey.
Abbey graduated fromhigh schoolin Indiana, Pennsylvania, in 1945. Eight months before his 18th birthday, when he would be faced with beingdraftedinto theUnited States military, Abbey decided to explore the American southwest. He traveled by foot, bus,hitchhiking, andfreight train hopping.During this trip he fell in love with thedesertcountry of theFour Cornersregion. Abbey wrote: "[...]crags and pinnacles of naked rock, the dark cores of ancientvolcanoes, a vast and silent emptiness smoldering with heat, color, and indecipherable significance, above which floated a small number of pure, clear, hard-edged clouds. For the first time, I felt I was getting close to the West of my deepest imaginings, the place where the tangibleIn the military Abbey had applied for a clerk typist position but instead he served two years as amilitary police officerin Italy. Abbey was promoted in the military twice but due to his knack for opposing authority, was twice demoted and washonorably dischargedas a private. His experience with the military left him with a distrust for large institutions and regulations which influenced his writing throughout his career, and strengthened his anarchist beliefs. When he returned to the United States, Abbey took advantage of theG.I. Billto attend theUniversity of New Mexico, where he received a B.A. in philosophy and English in 1951, and amaster's degreein philosophy in 1956.During his time in college, Abbey supported himself by working at a variety of odd jobs, including being a newspaper reporter andbartendinginTaos, New Mexico. During this time he had few male friends but had intimate relationships with a number of women. Shortly before getting his bachelor's degree, Abbey married his first wife, Jean Schmechal (another UNM student).While an undergraduate, Abbey was the editor of a student newspaper in which he published an article titled "Some Implications of Anarchy". A cover quotation of the article, "ironically attributed toLouisa May Alcott" stated "Man will never be free until the lastkingisstrangledwith theentrailsof the lastpriest." University officials seized all of the copies of the issue, and removed Abbey from the editorship of the paper. and the mythical became the same."Upon receiving his honorable discharge papers, he sent it back to the department with the words "Return to Sender". The FBI took note and added a note to his file which was opened in 1947 when Edward Abbey committed an act of civil disobedience; he posted a letter while in college urging people to rid themselves of their draft cards. Abbey was on the FBI’s watch-list ever since then and was watched throughout his life. In 1952 Abbey wrote a letter against the draft in times of peace and again the FBI took notice writing, "Edward Abbey is against war and military." Throughout his life the FBI took notes building a profile on Abbey, observing his movements and interviewing many people who knew him. Towards the later parts of his life Abbey learned of the FBI’s After graduating, Schmechal and Abbey traveled together toEdinburgh, Scotland,where Abbey spent a year atEdinburgh Universityas aFulbright scholar.During this time, Abbey and Schmechal separated and ended their marriage.In 1951 Abbey began having an affair with Rita Deanin,who in 1952 would become his second wife after he and Schmechal divorced. Deanin and Abbey had two children, Joshua N. Abbey and Aaron Paul Abbey. Abbey'smaster's thesisexploredanarchismand themorality of violence, asking the two questions: "To what extent is the currentassociation between anarchism and violencewarranted?" and "In so far as the association is a valid one, what arguments have the anarchists presented, explicitly or implicitly, to justify the use of violence?".After receiving his master's degree, Abbey spent 1957 atStanford Universityon aWallace Stegner Creative Writing Fellowship.interest in him and said "I’d be insulted if they weren’t watching me".
In 1956 and 1957, Abbey worked as a seasonal ranger for theUnited States National Park Service at Arches National Monument(now a national park), near the town of Moab, Utah. Abbey held the position from April to September each year, during which time he maintained trails, greeted visitors, and collected campground fees. He lived in a house trailer that had been provided to him by the Park Service, as well as in a ramada that he built himself. During his stay at Arches, Abbey accumulated a large volume of notes and sketches which later formed the basis of his first non-fiction work, Desert Solitaire. Abbey's second son Aaron was born in 1959, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.n the 1960s Abbey worked as a seasonal park ranger at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, on the border of Arizona and Mexico. In 1961, the movie version of his second novel, The Brave Cowboy, with screenplay by Dalton Trumbo, was being shot on location in New Mexico by Kirk Douglas who had purchased the novel's screen rights and was producing and starring in the film, released in 1962 as Lonely Are the Brave. Douglas once said that when Abbey visited the film set, he looked and talked so much like friend Gary Cooper that Douglas was disconcerted. However, over 25 years later when Abbey died, Douglas wrote that he had 'never met' him. In 1981, his third novel, Fire on the Mountain, was also adapted into a TV movie by the same title.
On October 16, 1965 Abbey married Judy Pepper, who accompanied Abbey as a seasonal park ranger in the FloridaEverglades, and then as a fire lookout in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Judy was separated from Abbey for extended periods of time while she attended the University of Arizona to get her master's degree. During this time, Abbey slept with other women—something that Judy gradually became aware of, causing their marriage to suffer. On August 8, 1968 Pepper gave birth to a daughter, Susannah "Susie" Mildred Abbey. Ed purchased the family a home in Sabino Canyon, outside ofTucson. Judy died of leukemia on July 11, 1970, an event that crushed Abbey, causing him to go into "bouts of depression and loneliness" for years. It was to Judy that he dedicated his book Black Sun. However, the book was not an autobiographical novel about his relationship with Judy. Rather it was a story about a woman with whom Abbey had an affair in 1963. Abbey finished the first draft of Black Sun in 1968, two years before Judy died, and it was "a bone of coDesert Solitaire, Abbey's fourth book and first non-fiction work, was published in 1968. In it, he describes his stay in the canyonlands of southeastern Utah from 1956-1957.Desert Solitaire is regarded as one of the finest nature narratives in American literature, and has been compared to Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac and Thoreau's Walden. In it, Abbey vividly describes the physical landscapes of Southern Utah and delights in his isolation as a back country park ranger, recounting adventures in the nearby canyon country and mountains. He also attacks what he terms the "industrial tourism" and resulting development in the national parks ("national parking lots"), rails against the Glen Canyon Dam, and comments on various other subjects. In 1973, Abbey married his fourth wife Renee Downing. However, Abbey was always gone so they divorced after four years of marriage.ntention in their marriage".
Abbey met his fifth and final wife, Clarke Cartwright in 1978, and married her in 1982. Together they had two children, Rebecca Claire Abbey and Benjamin C. Abbey. In 1995, Abbey's granddaughter, Sophia Abbey-Kuipers, was born.
In 1984, Abbey went back to the University of Arizona to teach courses in creative writing and hospitality management. During this time, he continued working on his book Fool's Progress.
In July 1987, Abbey went to the Earth First! Rendezvous at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. While there, he was involved in a heated debate over his views on immigration, with an anarchist communistgroup known as Alien Nation. Abbey devoted an entire chapter in his book Hayduke Lives to the events that took place at the Rendezvous. In autumn of 1987, the Utne Reader published a letter byMurray Bookchin which claimed that Abbey, Garrett Hardin, and the members of Earth First! were racistsand eco-terrorists. Abbey was extremely offended, and demanded a public apology, stating that he was neither racist nor a supporter of terrorism. All three of those Bookchin labelled "racist" opposed illegal immigration into the United States, contending that population growth would cause further harm to the environment. Regarding the accusation of "eco-terrorism", Abbey responded that the tactics he supported were trying to defend against the terrorism he felt was committed by government and industry against living beings and the environment.
^ Jump up to:abScheese, Donald. "Abbey, Edward." Encyclopedia of American Environmental History. Ed. Kathleen A. Brosnan. Vol. 1. New York: Facts on File, 2011. 75-76. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 3 June 2013.
Jump up^Bishop, James (1995). Epitaph for a desert anarchist: the life and legacy of Edward Abbey. Simon and Schuster. p. 68. ISBN978-0-684-80439-2.
Jump up^From a speech to environmentalists in Missoula, Montana, and in Colorado, which was published in High Country News, (24 September 1976), under the title "Joy, Shipmates, Joy!", as quoted in Saving Nature's Legacy : Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity (1994) by Reed F. Noss, Allen Y. Cooperrider, and Rodger Schlickeisen, p. 338. ISBN 1-55963-248-8