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The Fool's Progress: An Honest Novel [Paperback]

Edward Abbey
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 15 1998
When his third wife abandons him in Tucson, boozing, misanthropic anarchist Henry Holyoak Lightcap shoots his refrigerator and sets off in a battered pick-up truck for his ancestral home in West Virginia. Accompanied only by his dying dog and his memories, the irascible warhorse (a stand-in for the "real" Abbey) begins a bizarre cross-country odyssey--determined to make peace with his past--and to wage one last war against the ravages of "progress."

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From Amazon

Just before he died in 1989, Ed Abbey published what he called his "honest novel," one loosely based on his own life. Early in its opening pages, Abbey's alter ego, Lightcap, takes off from his nearly empty home (its contents just removed by a disgruntled spouse) in Tucson, Arizona--but not before shooting his refrigerator, a hated symbol of civilization. Lightcap makes a winding journey by car to his boyhood home in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania, calling on old friends along the road, visiting Indian reservations and out-of-the-way bars, and reminiscing about the triumphs and follies of his life. Readers would be mistaken to view this as pure autobiography, but The Fool's Progress nonetheless is an illuminating look into Abbey's time and his way of thinking, especially on matters of ecology and other social issues. It's also a picaresque tale humorously and artfully told, a book that Abbey himself rightly regarded as one of his best works of fiction. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

In a wild, picaresque novel, nature-loving Henry Lightcap makes a despairing odyssey across a lovely but ruined land from Tucson, Ariz., to the Appalachian family farm g run by his brother; penniless, Henry has nowhere else to go. PW found this "as absurdly moving as anything you have read in years." (July)Penny, do you have a copy of this?robin
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good novel about life's journey. April 29 2004
This was Abbey's second-to-last novel, and should be known as his swan song. It is about a dying man, and his journey backwards through time and space, to his beginnings. Harry Lightcap is definately not a "politically correct" character, but he is a deep thinker, and a free man. This book is unsentimental, and a bit funny. I definately recommend reading this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT BOOK Nov. 27 2003
There aren't a lot of books that you read in your life that stay with you for very long. This is one that does. This book was given to me by a friend when I was starting my own personal journey. I literally was also on a journey across the country in hopes of finding myself. This was 10 years ago. I am now on my third copy of this book. The first one was eaten by my one year old Labrador. He liked the book too.
This is without a doubt my favorite book to give to people to read in the hopes that they will experience some of the same things I did after reading this. It's actually been a while since I last read this book, but I think it's time to read it again so I can relive the journey.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Uncommon Beauty Oct. 24 2003
After his third wife leaves him, Henry hops in his truck, his dying dog following faithfully behind, and travels east, (from his small home in Arizona), to the place of his childhood. As he travels, he reminisces upon his past life and past loves. A man unwilling to submit to society, Henry and his beautiful character give a valuable lesson to the reader. Learn from it.
As the book progresses, you learn more and more about Henry, (Henry may be a fool, but Henry is far wiser than the worker in the cubicle). Flirtatious, he is quick to fall deeply in love; extremist, does anything to protect the wilderness; and extravagant, he's a philosopher with no job. He values freedom more than anything else ... and NOT the kind must Americans think of. He takes the freedom to sleep miles from the city, under the stars, for most of the year and to pee in sinks. He takes the freedom to carry around a knife and gut his own goat. He takes the freedom to never have a full time job. (Americans usually take the "freedom" to own a house, SUV, a wife, two happy kids, a stable job and have no ambition other than to retire). He has a love for the West, for the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, the geological formations and the multi-cultural people of Albuquerque. Edward Abbey himself is so present in this novel ... you could call it autobiographical.
This book can tell you so much ... please learn from it. But it's beauty is unusual. I admired Abbey's writing before I read this, but he sweeps up all the common archetypes of literature and life, and puts them all in one classic novel.
Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Live. At least until you die. May 15 2003
This is one of the best and most memorable books I've read (having just finished it for the second time). It often lays bare innermost thoughts we all have but can't find words for. It often leaves you wondering "how could he have known...?"
Yes. And this book makes me want to quit my office job, drink beer, eat beans, call friends and family, and get outside for prolonged periods of time.
Oh yeah. And it makes me want to talk with my dog more.
This book is about enjoying--not enduring--both the difficult and the easy; the ugly and the beautiful. It's about plain old good and well-fashioned living. In one man's opinion, anyway.
Buy it. ...
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book by a Fascinating Man Nov. 21 2002
I recently read this book for the second time after ten years had passed from my first encounter with Edward Abbey. Without a doubt this is the best book I have read in years. It moved me personally and taken in the total perspective of his love for the desert Southwest and the individuality of man it is a wonderful insight into Edward the man. Through the eyes of Edward Abbey I have visited and fallen in love with the deserts of the Southwest.
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5.0 out of 5 stars My Most Favorite Book May 10 2002
By Lori F.
I could spend a long time writing about all the wonderful aspects of this book. In one sitting, it can make you laugh so hard you'll nearly pee your pants, then sob aloud. What I love about this book is how much it makes the reader Henry Lightcap explains his views of the world, so do we explore our own; I've read this book a couple times, and each time I feel I know myself a little bit better. And all because of this strange beer-swilling man in a run-down Dodge and his dying dog. Go figure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars just read it May 2 2001
the fool's progress is brilliant. abbey is a lyrical muse with blisters on his feet and gravel in his mouth. time has polished the gravel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing last autobiographical novel May 25 2000
Edward Abbey died in March of 1989. In the latter part of 1988, he saw his last and perhaps most accomplished work brought to bed at his publishers in New York. The author of many highly controversial works of fiction and non-fiction, best known for his seemingly solitary stand against the ecological destruction of the western American deserts, Abbey's last book effectively completed a cycle. At the same time it was a very close foretelling of his own probable doom.
Abbey was an environmentalist from the beginning. In the East of his youth, he saw strip mines close in on his father's mountain acres. Out West, he witnessed the early preparations being made to dam the Colorado and its tributaries. He rafted down Glen Canyon and saw the hidden valleys filled with a beauty that was soon after to be engulfed. He smelt out the tricky political deals being woven by senators and landowners in the forgotten tracts of the butte country and did his best to expose them. Against all of the attempts to tame this corner of the American wilderness, Abbey railed.
In books ranging from "Desert Solitaire" (1967), a journal of a season in the desert, to "The Monkey Wrench Gang" (1975), an explosive novel of saboteurs versus dambuilders, Abbey argues his points in favour of preserving the canyon country. Having been there "before" and "after," his voice has a compelling authority. To read his account of Glen Canyon before the dam is to be filled with regret at the later spoliation.
In "The Fool's Progress," Abbey gives us something of a summing up of his own life. The book is like a reverse history of Kerouac's "On the Road.
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