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Desert Solitaire [Paperback]

Edward Abbey
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 18.99
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Book Description

Jan. 15 1990
Hailed by The New York Times as “a passionately felt, deeply poetic book,” the moving autobiographical work of Edward Abbey, considered the Thoreau of the American West, and his passion for the southwestern wilderness.

Desert Solitaire is a collection of vignettes about life in the wilderness and the nature of the desert itself by park ranger and conservationist, Edward Abbey. The book details the unique adventures and conflicts the author faces, from dealing with the damage caused by development of the land or excessive tourism, to discovering a dead body. However Desert Solitaire is not just a collection of one man’s stories, the book is also a philosophical memoir, full of Abbey’s reflections on the desert as a paradox, at once beautiful and liberating, but also isolating and cruel. Often compared to Thoreau’s Walden, Desert Solitaire is a powerful discussion of life’s mysteries set against the stirring backdrop of the American southwestern wilderness.

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Product Description

From Amazon

Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, the noted author's most enduring nonfiction work, is an account of Abbey's seasons as a ranger at Arches National Park outside Moab, Utah. Abbey reflects on the nature of the Colorado Plateau desert, on the condition of our remaining wilderness, and on the future of a civilization that cannot reconcile itself to living in the natural world. He also recounts adventures with scorpions and snakes, obstinate tourists and entrenched bureaucrats, and, most powerful of all, with his own mortality. Abbey's account of getting stranded in a rock pool down a side branch of the Grand Canyon is at once hilarious and terrifying.

Review

The New Yorker An American Masterpiece. A Forceful Encounter with a Man of Character and Courage.

The New York Times Book Review Like a ride on a bucking bronco...rough, tough, combative. The author is a rebel and an eloquent loner. His is a passionately felt, deeply poetic book...set down in a lean, racing prose, in a close-knit style of power and beauty.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
This is the most beautiful place on earth. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars desert solitaire June 1 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
One a the great books,the discretion of the desert,flora,fauna,the loneliness and the happiness of finding yourself with thought, how important it is to preserve, keeping intact this part of this country.How I found out about E,Abbey? Tom Russell singer poet,name of cd "hot walker"
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5.0 out of 5 stars Contrarian re-read. April 17 2013
By GJP
Format:Kindle Edition
Read this book again (after many years...30?). Wanted to re-kindle the old spark of love for the wild and untamable after too much time given to "Ratus Urbanus".
Planning my foray into Canyonlands...after the tourists leave.
RIP Ed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutly Fantastic June 7 2012
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book purely on the 4.5 star average rating without any real knowledge of its subject or author. I was absolutely blown away by it's narrative. Abbey is a terrific author and was able to put me right in his shoes as he described the world he was living in. The anecdotes are interesting and sincere and while the book lacks a "flow" or anything linking the events, they all seem to have the same tone and fit together well.

Specifically, there are just many insightful quotes found within the book that I found I could tie to my everyday life. As an environmentalist I often find it hard to put into words the reasons for why I love nature and Abbey does that fantastically.

I have already given away my copy to a friend who enjoyed it just as much as me and with any luck, she will pass it to somebody else.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Full of Hatred Nov. 7 1997
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Sorry, but I didn't care much for this one. I could not detect that the author had much love for the desert, just a lot of hatred for humankind. Let the reader be prepared for that, and not expect a pretty documentary about the desert.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A flawed man - but nearly a perfect book Oct. 11 2010
By Kieran Fox TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
5.0 out of 5 stars A flawed man - but nearly a perfect book, October 1, 2010

This review is from: Desert Solitaire (Paperback)
This is at once a hilarious and disturbing book - hilarious in that Abbey's flippant attitude and "I value nature more than mankind" take on life is refreshing and leads to a lot of awkward encounters; disturbing in that it highlights just how much environmental degradation North America has undergone. If Abbey was railing this angrily decades ago, one can only imagine what he'd say about today's state of affairs.

Many people who've written negative reviews here have taken digs at Abbey's less-than-perfect character and belief system, but let's start with the book itself.

Abbey undeniably has the gift of clarity. The genuine tenderness and reverence with which he evokes a lizard ducking behind a rock or storm clouds dumping a distant flash flood on the mesas rolling through the skies - it's really beautiful and evocative. You're THERE. The book consists of a great many loosely-connected chapters purportedly recounting "a season in the wilderness", when Abbey worked as park ranger at Arches National Monument in Utah. He explains that actually it was a couple of seasons, and various other anecdotes and trivia are thrown in throughout.

Abbey cooks lonely meals, watches the dust and clouds blow by, helps ranchers rack up their stray cows for extra cash, gets lost in the mesas, and generally treats naive and arrogant tourists with a good deal of spite. Along the way, we're treated to his views on our decaying civilization, which he feels is relentlessly smothering the few remaining 'wild' places on the continent - which is essentially undeniable.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but uneven... July 7 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Edward Abbey's collection of essays about his work at the then Arches National Monument(which he calls National Moneymint to mock the villains who wish to pave over everything). Abbey does have some good points, like we should stop trying to pave over things to make it more convineat to see nature. The whole Glen Canyon tragedy is told, foreshadowing the novel "Monkey Wrench Gang". I did like his wide knowledge of philosophy and the desert fauna and flora, and I relate to his love of the desert, but his prose is a bit(forgive the pun) too arid, and I had to slog through parts of the book. On the whole, I recommend it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Desert Solitaire April 15 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book is awsome. It is hard to believe that 30 years later some of the same problems exist for the NPS. Abbey definitely was a visionary. This book is the best account of real life in a fabulous place. It takes you back to those National Park visits when life was simple and people didn't mind getting out of their car and walking. Today everyone thinks they can "experience" a park from their car, Abbey understood this was coming and didn't mind giving his idea's on the subject. The descriptions of wildlife, flora and fauna are fantastic. You can almost smell the wild flowers. If you really want to experience the canyonlands of Utah, read this book!
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
You've got to admire a man known as the quintessential evironmentalist who writes so gleefully about trashing nearly everyplace he goes. This book is above all humorous and that alone makes this book enjoyable. Abbey is also a good story-teller.
The book chronicles a few seasons Abbey spends as a seasonal ranger in Arches National Monument (now a Park). Abbey describes the environs adequately but in no great depth. What is fascinating is how Abbey relates to the environment and how he interacts with it. Also included are a few other excursions like his float trip down Glen Canyon prior to its flooding by the dam.
My favorite parts are the dumb things Abbey does in the environment. Maybe Abbey is saying that is why we need wilderness. We need someplace to lay naked in the sun, burn down, carve initials into trees, or to get away from tourists. My favorite story is when Abbey lights a wildfire in Glen Canyon with his careless bumbling and runs and jumps on his raft just as the flames roar up to the beach. And Abbey seems to enjoy trashing the environment whenever possible doing stunts like rolling old tires into the Grand Canyon (through a mule train) and continually laying naked out in the boondocks somewhere. He also likes carving his initials in various places. His antics with the tourists who seem to bother him in spite of his job being to help them. There is also a humorous account of being a part of a search for a missing (and dead and bloated) tourist.
All in all, an amusing read more for the insight into Abbey than into the places he visited. And let me also throw in a quote from Abbey's intro. "The time passed extremely slowly, as time should pass, with the days lingering and long, spacious and free as the summers of childhood. There was time enough for once to do nothing...". Anyone who can think and write like that deserves to be read.
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