Desert Solitaire Paperback – Jan 15 1990
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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.
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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Abbey's philosophy is far from extreme, making this book perfect for a wide range of people. Once in the book he kills a rabbit for the sake of a personal "experiment," he makes a case for people to carry firearms, and he eats meat and a lot of eggs. Today, any of those actions would make a progressive seem contradictory in their philosophy. When did things get so serious? Abbey has written a great book for the cause of conservative environmentalism. Conservative not in the way of the political spectrum, but rather in the way of taking things slower: He says the rise in industrial tourism will destroy the wilderness, that the automobile, while opening up nature to many more people, has cheapened its effect, and that spending a week in one spot in nature is better and spending a week in a thousand different places. The book is beautiful, and regardless of what one believes outside of the realm of environmentalism, readers will enjoy this book with the lack of seriousness that I think Abbey intended time in the wilderness should be spent.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
very disappointing! There was one good thought in the whole book. I was looking for some insight into why I feel I have an affinity with deserts, there was none. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Campbell Riverite
Book a bit more damaged than described (front page half torn), but beside that, in very good shape.
Superb book, a must read!
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... Read morePublished on June 1 2013 by andre labbee
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". Read morePublished on April 17 2013 by GJP
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. Read morePublished on June 7 2012 by RJ
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). Read morePublished on July 7 2004 by Peter LaPrade
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