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Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
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Desert Solitaire (original 1968; edition 1968)

by Edward Abbey

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2,333532,703 (4.28)73
Member:Stbalbach
Title:Desert Solitaire
Authors:Edward Abbey
Info:McGraw- Hill Book Company (1968), Edition: Second Printing, Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:None

Work details

Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey (1968)

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Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
Edward Abbey joins some of the authors I most admire (Annie Dillard, Peter Mathiessen, Loren Eiseley) in one of my favorite groups- superb writers who have discovered that their experience of immersion in the natural world is the source of deep, if always shifting and elusive, meaning – perhaps the only meaning, the only kind of meaning.

I didn’t rush to read the man because an egotistical and misogynistic crank persona outlived him, but that’s little in evidence (maybe it hadn’t been fully developed yet) here. It is true that there’s no inkling of female subjectivity in this book – the perceivers and doers, for good or ill, are all male, and whenever he addresses a larger audience, the receivers are all imagined to be male too. Very old school. But what Auden said about “Kipling and his views” is true of Abbey: “Time…pardons him for writing well.”

Because he writes beautifully, bringing all the tools of the greats: factual knowledge, superb memory, fine storytelling, lyricism, humor, polemic, expert use of detail, appropriation from the classics – to this work, and the full power of the desert as a place unfolds before you.

Maybe he gets a bit more tendentious toward the end, but this is such a long, rich book that’s a very minor quibble. I haven’t felt as completely engrossed in a book in a while. And the chapter about a ten-day drift on a raft through the incomparable, ageless Glen Canyon – just before it was drowned forever by the massive dam that created the bizarre and pointless Lake Powell - was so understatedly idyllic that the final effect was horrifying, literally heart-wrenching, exactly as I’m sure he intended it to be.
( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
What starts out as a grumpy guy out west telling about his love of the desert turns quickly into a reclusive narcissist that hates people yearning to die alone in the desert, which by then the reader is glad to let him do. Even with the narration of bitterness, he can create a connection to the wild. My favorite parts were his description of death by dehydration, escaping quicksand, and his encounter with a legendary horse. ( )
  revslick | Feb 20, 2014 |
This is a nonfiction memoir about Abbey’s time as a park ranger at Arches National Park in Utah. Abbey is a bit of a curmudgeon, ranting about the destruction tourists cause in the park. That’s the strange paradox of wilderness; the more people want to visit it the more likely it is to be tainted by their presence. The wild aspects of nature are destroyed as roads are built for the public to reach them.

It reminded me so much of Thoreau’s Walden. Both men live on their own, apart from society for the majority of each day. They write about their reflections of both the nature that surrounds them and the structure of the world in which they live. It’s hard not to sound a bit pious when you’re in that position, but some of his descriptions are beautiful.

BOTTOM LINE: A good travel memoir and reflection on society, but I have a feeling I would have enjoyed this one much more if I’d been traveling in the West or even planning a trip there. It’s hard to appreciate the incredible nature of the west when you’re just reading about it. ( )
  bookworm12 | Dec 6, 2013 |
TBR Note:

from list at national geographic, best adventure lit: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/0404/adventure_books_1-19.html
  DawsonOakes | Sep 20, 2013 |
Nature and cynicism. My favorite combination. ( )
1 vote Ccfoley | May 14, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edward Abbeyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hirvi, JussiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mailhos, JacquesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mannino, GiovannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ochi, MichioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peacock, DougIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Give me silence, water, hope
Give me struggle, iron, volcanoes
-Neruda
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for Josh and Aaron
First words
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:54 -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)

(summary from another edition)

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