Author(s): Edward AbbeyDownload
First published in 1968, Desert Solitaire is one of Edward Abbey’s most critically acclaimed works and marks his first foray into the world of nonfiction writing. Written while Abbey was working as a ranger at Arches National Park outside of Moab, Utah, Desert Solitaire is a rare view of one man’s quest to experience nature in its purest form.Through prose that is by turns passionate and poetic, Abbey reflects on the condition of our remaining wilderness and the future of a civilization that cannot reconcile itself to living in the natural world as well as his own internal struggle with morality. As the world continues its rapid development, Abbey’s cry to maintain the natural beauty of the West remains just as relevant today as when this book was written.
Some Reviews: 2319 in Goodreads.com
Any discussion of the great Southwest regional writer Edward Abbey invariably turns to the fact that he was a pompous self-centered hypocritical womanizer. And those were his good qualities (just kidding, Michelle). He advocated birth control and railed against immigrants having children yet fathered five children himself, he fought against modern intrusion in the wilderness yet had no problem throwing beer cans out of his car window, He hated ranchers and farmers yet was a staunch supporter of the National Rifle Association, he hated tourists yet saw the Southwest as his personal playground, and (my favorite) he advocated wilderness protection with one reason being they would make good training grounds for guerrilla fighters who would eventually overthrow the government.
Yet with all that, his readers forgive him mainly because he realized the total insanity of his contrary positions and made fun of it in his writings. And even his detractors have to admit that no other writer wrote more eloquently about the Southwest, often with the passion of a John Muir and the radical zeal of a Che Guevara. Desert Solitaire is a love song to the American Southwest and Abbey is the Thoreau of the desert. Laugh if you must at the author’s ridiculous antics. There are many of them in this collection of essays. But it is worth it to get past the man and marvel at this eloquent plea for the preservation of the wonders of the Southwest desert.
One more point, I first read this book while on a backpacking trip in Utah’s Canyonland National Park. I don’t think I ever read a book in a more appropriate and inspiring setting.
This is one of the few books I don’t own that I really really really wish I did. I love this book. It makes me want to pack up my Jeep and head out for Moab. I love Abbey’s descriptions of the desert, the rivers, and the communion with solitude that he learns to love over the course two years as a ranger at Arches National Park.
Abbey explores environmentalism and government policies on the national parks. It wasn’t my favorite part of the book, but he manages to do it in such a way that it’s not too invasive. What makes this book really work for me is the sheer love that Abbey has for Arches and Canyonlands, and the way in which he manages to make me believe I’m right there on the red rock with him. It’s the literary equivalent of Ansel Adams.
Oh, and I love how he throws beer cans out his truck window as he’s meditating on the destruction of the wilderness by tourists and the government. Classic.
Almost all my friends who have read this book have given it five stars but not written reviews. Hey friends. *poke*
I feel like this book has been recommended to me numerous times, enough to compel me to buy it one day from Amazon, where it has festered unread in my Kindle library for at least a year. But the universe was commanding me to read it, three mentions in 2015, so I buckled down to read it. My only wish is that I had been reading it IN Utah so I could have seen some of the places mentioned in person rather than in my endless image searching on the internet.
Of course, Edward Abbey warns that the places he describes won’t exist once the reader encounters them in the book, because the desert is destined for gross commercialization and some of the land will literally disappear underwater because of damming (“you’re holding a tombstone in your hands”.) And the book was printed in 1968. It went on to become one of the most important early environmental works, alongside books like Silent Spring.
Edward Abbey is admonishing, cranky, but completely reverent about the space he gets to live for a “season.” He embraces the solitude, the heat, the utter lack of moisture, and the natural features that are only possible in this specific climate.
I have so many parts of this book marked, but to do them justice would write a book in itself. I’d read the book, but feel that Abbey would be admonishing you for trying to experience anything through a book instead of getting OUT there.
“I entreat you, get out of those motorized wheelchairs, get off your foam rubber backsides, stand up straight like men! like women! like human beings! and walk – walk – WALK upon our sweet and blessed land!”
with Edward Abbey.
4|25|2008: The day I finally finished Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey.
Usually I read books very quickly and all at once. Most books don’t take me longer than a few days to finish. I just love stories so much that I don’t like to stop once I’ve started. Desert Solitaire, however, has taken me years to get through. I’ve started it half a dozen times, and every time I love it, but when I set it down I don’t pick it back up again. Then in a month or two, I pick it up again starting over again, of course. I’ve read the first half of the book several times. Finally I realized I don’t have to read the first half over again every time I set it down. So although this time there was a substantial gap between my reading the first part and reading the last, I finally read the entire thing.
I know that taking forever to get through it doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement for the book. However, it is excellent. There is essentially no plot in the book, and so I never felt that compulsive urge to find out how things are going to go. Instead, the book is like sitting down outside your tent at night, with a seasoned outdoorsman, telling anecdotes & talking philosophy. Abbey is an excellent writer, who helped me envision the areas he wrote about. Throughout the book, I felt challenged to think about his philosophy on life, the wilderness, and everything and decide if I agreed or not.
I’ve dog-eared about every third or fourth page, to go back to for quotes & to think about some more.
So, I guess, really I’m still not finshed with Desert Solitaire
This is one of only four or five books that I can say truly impacted my life. Many years ago my boss saw me reading “The Monkey Wrench Gang” (which did not significantly impress me). He suggested “Desert Solitaire” as a much better example of Edward Abbey’s work. I took his recommendation seriously, and have been thankful to him ever since.
Having grown up in Idaho I had done a fair amount of backpacking in the mountains and forests, and I was somewhat of an outdoor enthusiast at the time. But the thought of recreating in the desert never held much allure to me–until I read this book. Now I make at least a couple of backpacking/camping trips per year into the desert. I still love the mountains, lakes, rivers, and forests, but I now know that the deserts are also full of wonder.
My favorite chapter told about Abbey’s trip to Havasu Creek and Falls. While reading about it I remember saying to myself, “There can’t possibly really be a place like this”. I determined that I would find out if such a place actually existed and if it was as wonderful as Abbey described it. A few years ago I made the trip to Havasu Falls, and I found that the author’s description of the place was perfect. But I would have loved to have seen the place in the early sixties, like Abbey did, before the excessive tourism had diminished the place.
Not only did this book help me to appreciate the desert for what it is, it taught me to appreciate non-fiction writing in general and nature writing in particular things I thought I did not care for previously. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an appreciation for the outdoors.
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