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The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey

The Monkey Wrench Gang (original 1975; edition 1985)

by Edward Abbey, R. Crumb (Illustrator)

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2,271364,007 (3.97)70
Title:The Monkey Wrench Gang
Authors:Edward Abbey
Other authors:R. Crumb (Illustrator)
Info:Salt Lake City : Dream Garden Press, 1985.
Collections:Your library, To read

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The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey (1975)


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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
Apparently, this is a book that many eco-activists use as there go to guide for stopping large, environmentally unfriendly projects, either public or private. I don't know how much of this type of activity is done today, however, I really would applaud the destruction of bill boards...

As for the story itself, we have a bunch of loner type characters, from Hayduke, a Vietnam Vet, who came home with a felling of not belonging, and needing a purpose. Than there is "Seldom Seen" Smith, a Semi Morman with three wives. He runs a rafting business, and is upset about the damming of his river. There is Dr. Sarvis who is a middle aged doctor with a vendetta against billboards, and his lovely assistant, lover, keeper, and all around gal, Bonnie Abbzug. She is originally from New Jersey, and is looking for purpose, just like the rest of the gang.

Overall - this is a funny book. From the Morman criminal patrol, trying to catch them, to the lengths Hayduke will go to get revenge on a (possibly) false arrest. At times it is sad, plowing over beautiful, untouched land. Over all, a well written book. ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Apr 14, 2018 |
good enough for a re-read. ( )
  craig5373 | Nov 24, 2017 |
What fate befalls the cult classic over time? Forgotten is one option, trapped in time is another. Retention of status quo is probably the most pure, the book ‘rediscovered’ every generation or so. The other two I can think of relate to books that continue to attract attention: they become considered gimmicks, cult classics remembered, often because of the movie based on it. And, probably but too rarely, they become part of the canon. Readers decide on these categories one way or another, which is a complicated matter it would be boring to explicate: suffice it so say that the reader is overburdened by the extraordinary number of great books available. In the 19th century you could read all the great books still. You would read Carlyle because you ran out of material. Now you read Carlyle, and maybe Braudel, but Montaigne will remain unread on the toilet shelf which you put there so you could look at your Toynbees, also forever unread. And why not, given that when you were 22 you dropped out of university to read Spengler. Your literature is extremely important, so you make sure you read at least one Dostoevsky besides Crime and Punishment, maybe the same month you add Middlemarch to Mill on the Floss, but maybe not, because you’ve decided you need to read at least a few of the great Latin American writers, meaning at least ten books and a half year of reading. And don’t forget German literature. You can say damn the Goethe and Hoffmannia, I will stick with this dramatic century, but after Berlin Alexanderplatz through Gunther Grass you find there are a billiard table of great works remaining. Maybe save time and go back to Goethe and Hoffmann.
It needed to be said.
The best of us remain on page 149 of The Anatomy of Melancholy and lie about Cervantes and Rabelais figuring we got the idea a couple decades ago when we dashed through the first two hundred pages of each. So over and over again we meet well-meaning literati who ask, not meaning to be impertinent: You haven’t read Angle of Repose? And we meet well-meaning literati who say, here: this is one of the great forgotten books, the author drowned himself in the Seine, and hand you The Blind Owl. And you have a glorious summer following some cat’s advice and read the Ching ping mei and the Monkey novel.
It’s not a bad life, but you probably have been missing out on about fifty books you had to dismiss in order to read as many as you have. You decided, for instance, that The Monkey Wrench Gang was a gimmicky book, probably a movie with Jon Voigt. I make such connections—Deliverance, wackiness and the out of doors—eco sabotage comedy…But luckily I can make other connections. By means interesting but elided here I came to meet the biographer of Aldo Leopold and no I have not read The Sand County Almanac. His name is Curt Meine, and he writes essays in the tradition of Leopold yet with current knowledge of how the United States rambles on over the best of historical ideas, at most having to fix a flat (Leopold was probably a broken bottle). I decided that perhaps better than filling the Leopold gap with the popular book, the classic, I would read the biography, and I have been and still am, slowly, as other books need reading as ideas come together. One of those books my brother bought for my 14 year son: Doug Peacock’s Grizzly Years, which was surprisingly thoughtful and well-written, and which had a great deal more to say to me than any book about observing bears is expected to. In the book, he mentions Ed Abbey a couple times, and I figured it was probably that guy Edward Abbey, author of Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang, but thought little of the connection until mentioning the book in a mail to Curt Meine who said Hayduke of Monkey Wrench Gang was based on Doug Peacock. Then my brother told me the same thing.
So now let’s go back. The whole mess started with something I tried not to mention in order to streamline this review: I decided I need to write one more novel, a giant one, about the US, this one to be called The Assassination of Olof Palme, this one to rid myself of all of my own autobiographical burdens and to go beyond the intentions of my most recent book about the U.S., The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas, which tries to fictionally explain how the U.S. got the way it got. But there was, I realized after over a year, too little of the way it got, how it is. Before long I realized Nancy Reagan would have to be a character, Alzheimer’s a broader characteristic, and, to do it all right, C. Wright Mills would have to be a fulcral character in the novel. I don’t generally use real folk as characters, now I had two of them. So I got a biography of Mills and a new copy of The Power Elite, and then realized it could not begin there, at least not my research, or the spurring of my recollection. I would have to read the great and enduring biography of Thorstein Veblen by Dorfman. Soon after that book arrived in the mail the story with Meine began and it was clear that the third biography preparatory to beginning the novel was that of Aldo Leopold.
Imagine my surprise then when pressed by circumstance at its heaviest and most manipulative into reading The Monkey Wrench Gang that I found about halfway through the book a paragraph consisting of the words of one of the four main characters, Doc Sarvis, more or less explaining how the U.S. works, concisely eliminating the need for most people to read The Power Elite. Doc pretty much says it all. But by then I was not at all surprised at the intellect of Abbey, whose book seems to have gotten the reputation as a non-literary, near literary, important gimmicky cult book, mostly important for being ahead of the story on eco-activism. It turns out, though, that Abbey was also a terrific writer, and this book one of the best nature books, among other features, ever written. His relentless need to describe extraordinary landscapes is exceeded by his ability to do so. And his characters, though none of them written to match a Karamazov, are as real and interesting as can be, the dialogue smart, funny, dead on. And the mark of what I take to be the best comic writers—he’s willing to toss in the worst possible jokes, which, because they are literature’s fart jokes, actually are funny:
Bonnie Abbzug and Hayduke are arguing, Hayduke misleads the vultures of capitalism by using the nom de guerre Rudolf the Red. Hayduke felt rain. Bonnie didn’t.
“Am I Rudolf the Red or ain’t I?”
“Well, goddammit, Rudolf the Red knows rain, dear”
“Say that again?”
I assume the story is well enough known, that the gang in question is a group come together deciding to sabotage disastrous ecological activity, sabotaging machines, blowing up pursuit vehicles like helicopters, shutting down hideously gigantic coal operations, with an eye on bridges and ultimately an absurdly placed dam, the Glen Canyon in case you don’t know. And I will tell you that this book has something to say, something to suggest, something to actively do to improve your life, which is rare among literary works (I think of Zorba, a book that can literally improve your life), and that thing is this: if you get the chance, blow up that fucking dam! Abbey himself apparently was coy about the effect his book had on a generation of activists tired of bourgeois Sierra Club environmentalism (Abbey takes an effective, funny shot at S.C. toward the end of his book), a faction of which took up lawless destructive eco-activism. Abbey clearly approved. And of course he did. This book makes its case and the case is that it is time to start the revolution without them, start sabotaging the techno future. I didn’t need that message, but I won’t go into my own night activities here, but had the message of Abbey been heeded and the mechanisms of the power elite headed off, global warming would have been a footnote by now. Instead, The Monkey Wrench Gang needs to be required reading for all humans before they reach puberty or the planet is doomed. ( )
5 vote RickHarsch | Nov 3, 2017 |
While not a new release, this 1975 classic is well worth a revisit and perfect for July's adult SLP theme. Ex-Green Beret George Hayduke returns from war to find that his beloved southwestern desert is being threatened by rampant industrial development. Joined by an unlikely group of allies, Hayduke sets out to save the natural landscape that he loves as he rages against men and their machine-driven destruction. This wildly entertaining read will keep you on the edge of your seat as you're placed smack dab at the front of the environmentalist movement.

Bettina P. / Marathon County Public Library
Find this book in our library catalog.
( )
  mcpl.wausau | Sep 25, 2017 |
Abbey at his best! Should be of particular interest to environmental activist, anarchist and those familiar with Northern Arizona. ( )
  Charlie_Boling | Apr 19, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edward Abbeyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Abbey, Edwardmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Brinkley, DouglasIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Crumb, R.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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". . . but oh my desert
yours is the only death I cannot bear." - Richard Shelton

"Resist much. Obey little." - Walt Whitman

"Now. Or never." - Thoreau

"sabotage . . . n. [Fr. < sabot, awooden shoe + AGE from damage done to machinery by sabots] . . . ." - Webster's New World Dictionary
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061129763, Paperback)

Ed Abbey called The Monkey Wrench Gang, his 1975 novel, a "comic extravaganza." Some readers have remarked that the book is more a comic book than a real novel, and it's true that reading this incendiary call to protect the American wilderness requires more than a little of the old willing suspension of disbelief. The story centers on Vietnam veteran George Washington Hayduke III, who returns to the desert to find his beloved canyons and rivers threatened by industrial development. On a rafting trip down the Colorado River, Hayduke joins forces with feminist saboteur Bonnie Abbzug, wilderness guide Seldom Seen Smith, and billboard torcher Doc Sarvis, M.D., and together they wander off to wage war on the big yellow machines, on dam builders and road builders and strip miners. As they do, his characters voice Abbey's concerns about wilderness preservation ("Hell of a place to lose a cow," Smith thinks to himself while roaming through the canyonlands of southern Utah. "Hell of a place to lose your heart. Hell of a place... to lose. Period"). Moving from one improbable situation to the next, packing more adventure into the space of a few weeks than most real people do in a lifetime, the motley gang puts fear into the hearts of their enemies, laughing all the while. It's comic, yes, and required reading for anyone who has come to love the desert. --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:49 -0400)

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In the author's classic novel of environmental activism, four rebels declare war on stripminers, clear-cutters, and othe destroyers of the environment and raiders of natural resources.

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