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Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness…

Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness (1968)

by Edward Abbey

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Well, I see why people like him—he’s vicious about people, including himself, while loving the desert around him far more, and describing it with equal wit. Discussing physicists (and riffing on the atomic bomb) he talks about scientific disputes that were “peaceful,” in that “only bystanders” were harmed. Et cetera. It is a bit disconcerting to have environmentalism side by side with various racial stereotypes (the noble/degraded Indian in particular), heterosexism (no fairies for him), and condemnation of cars as mere wheelchairs—if you’re too infirm to see the great outdoors, you should have gone before you got that way. Also his insistence that overpopulation was about to destroy the United States—half a century ago—making mandatory contraception necessary, reads a little differently now. ( )
  rivkat | Jun 15, 2017 |
A season spent rangering in Arches National Park in the late 50’s, Abbey meanders through conservation issues, the harsh realities of desert life, and an ongoing commentary on the downhill slide of American tourism. Despite the over fifty years since Desert Solitaire’s original publication, Abbey’s monumental text remains relevant and effectual for newer generations of wilderness enthusiasts. The changes the national park system has since undergone are particularly telling and provide an intriguing parallel to Abbey’s lament about the inevitable restructuring. A surprisingly easy read pleasantly interspersed with hiking anecdotes, humorous observations, and often sardonic remarks on government bureaucracy and tourist culture, which seem particularly apt in today’s political and social climate. ( )
  GennaC | May 9, 2017 |
4.5 stars

Written in 1968, this book stands the test of time. I loved it! Written in a non-linear way, this is a compilation of Abbey's adventures, anecdotes, and philosophical musings from the time he spent as a park ranger in Utah's Arches National Park. Abbey is a grumpy old man but he’s so amusing as he waxes poetic on the dangers of civilization and tourists encroaching on the natural wonders in the American Southwest that he’s easily forgiven. It’s unclear how many of his more radical views he truly held but many (it seemed to me) bordered on sarcasm and “feelings of the moment”.

Abbey was a man full of contradictions, but there’s no question of his love for the outdoors and natural wonders. It came shining through in his eloquent prose, with descriptions that were thoughtful and poetic. This is a book that will make you feel, that will make you laugh on one page and feel wistful and pensive on the next. But always in awe at his command of the written word. This book can change the way you view nature, especially the SW.

Highly recommended. This is no boring travelogue….love him or hate him, there’s no denying Abbey is entertaining. He’s a curmudgeonly John Muir and much more fun to read than Muir.
( )
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
I wish there was a 4.5 star option. Most of the time, I loved this book. At several points, I wanted to punch Abbey in the face. I think he would approve of this review. ( )
  StefanieBrookTrout | Feb 4, 2017 |
During the 1950s Edward Abbey spent several summers working as a park ranger in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. At that time relatively few people knew about the area or wanted to vacation there, especially since the roads weren't paved and were sometimes difficult to get through, the campsites were primitive compared to today's standards, and you had to hike several miles to see some of the formations. This book came from the journals Abbey kept during those years and is a reflection about the majesty of the desert and nature in general comparable to Thoreau's Walden. It is also a call for the preservation of the American wilderness at the expense of making national parks more accessible to tourists.

I think Abbey himself sums up the book best in the introduction: "I quite agree that much of the book will seem coarse, rude, bad-tempered, violently prejudiced, unconstructive--even frankly antisocial in its point of view. Serious critics, serious librarians, serious associate professors of English will if they read this work dislike it intensely; at least I hope so. To others I can only say that if the book has virtues they cannot be disentangled from the faults; that there is a way of being wrong which is also sometimes necessarily right."

The introduction to the book floored me, and I was really excited to start reading the rest of it. I was disappointed with the rest of the book, however, because of Abbey's militant attitude (which he did warn us about, so it really shouldn't have been a surprise). The more I think about it, though, the more I appreciate the book for what it is, faults and all. As Abbey said, sometimes it's necessary to be wrong because it gets the discussion started. I've also realized that when one person has a spiritual experience while communing with nature, like Abbey and Thoreau both did, it's really hard to convey that experience to anyone else because it is so intensely personal. I recommend reading this one. You probably won't love it, but that's not the point. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edward Abbeyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hirvi, JussiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mailhos, JacquesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mannino, GiovannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ochi, MichioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peacock, DougIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Give me silence, water, hope
Give me struggle, iron, volcanoes
for Josh and Aaron
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About ten years ago I took a job as a seasonal park ranger in a place called Arches National Monument near the little town of Moab in southeast Utah.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345326490, Mass Market Paperback)

With language as colorful as a Canyonlands sunset and a perspective as pointed as a prickly pear, Cactus Ed captures the heat, mystery, and surprising bounty of desert life. Desert Solitaire is a meditation on the stark landscapes of the red-rock West, a passionate vote for wilderness, and a howling lament for the commercialization of the American outback.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:59 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

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.… (more)

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