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Part Walden, part Mein Kampf Desert Solitaire 1968 is to a certain extent sand mad Edward Abbey s homage to the beauty of the American Southwest and to the necessity of wilderness but mostly, the book is an autobiographical paean to the sheer wonder of Abbey himself Like the pioneers, prospectors, and developers who preceded him, Abbey lays claim to all the canyonlands and Four Corners region of southern Utah and northern Arizona Abbey s Country he calls it, and he seeks to fill ev Part Walden, part Mein Kampf Desert Solitaire 1968 is to a certain extent sand mad Edward Abbey s homage to the beauty of the American Southwest and to the necessity of wilderness but mostly, the book is an autobiographical paean to the sheer wonder of Abbey himself Like the pioneers, prospectors, and developers who preceded him, Abbey lays claim to all the canyonlands and Four Corners region of southern Utah and northern Arizona Abbey s Country he calls it, and he seeks to fill every twisting canyon and windswept plateau of his private playground with his own immense, misanthropic ego His collected jottings form a notebook of random, often paranoid observations cast in anemic prose He throws in everything that crosses his mind a wearisome narrative of his float down the Colorado with a laconic traveling companion bare, boring lists of plant names a violent short story about prospecting a dishonoring and disgusting story about finding the body of a lost tourist jejune meditations on death and mortality all of it crusted over with inane metaphysical babbling, insulting rants, and absurd polemics directed against technology, development, Native Americans, tourists, religion, the Park Service, the aged, the young, the government, and anyone or anything that is not Ed Yes, there are a few colorful descriptions of the scenery, but they are obscured by beer swigging, cigar chomping, beefsteak chewing, bacon burping, Bull Durham big mouth Ed s constant grab for attention Abbey needs solitude about as much as a jackass needs a flush toilet Ed s like your 10 year old brother who torments you by jumping in front of your camera while you re trying to take a picture of a sunset or like a blathering guide who can t stem his prattle long enough to let you listen to the wind blowing through the canyons All too often I found myself thinking, Ed, shut up already and let me look around But he won t because he s got to tell me how he s crushed a rabbit s skull with a rock it was an experiment , or how in a lovelorn moment he carved his name in an aspen graffiti that will be twice as big in fifty years , or how he tore up dirt roads in his government owned Chevvy pickup, or how he insulted some tourist or some tourist insulted him, or how he burned everything in sight with his paraffin coated matches Desert Solitaire is gonzo environmentalism, and it s showing its age The immense majesty and haunting beauty of southern Utah s canyons deserves a far better panegyrist.Update It s been ten years since I read Desert Solitaire and wrote this review I m happy to say that since then I ve come across many excellent books on the Four Corners region Two of the best are Ellen Meloy s The Anthropology of Turquoise Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone and Sky, a new journalistic approach filled with wit and charm And next, Ann Zwinger s very detailed and still readable Wind in the Rock The Canyonlands of Southeastern Utah In fact, you can t go too far wrong with anything written by these two authors (((Read Kindle))) ⇬ Desert Solitaire ↝ First published in , 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 formThrough 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 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 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 wroteeloquently 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.Onepoint, 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 aappropriate and inspiring setting Anyone who thinks about nature will find things to love and despise about Desert Solitaire One moment he s waxing on about the beauty of the cliffrose or the injustice of Navajo disenfranchisement and the next he s throwing rocks at bunnies and recommending that all dogs be ground up for coyote food He says the personification of the natural is exactly the tendency I wish to suppress in myself p 6 and then proceeds to personify every rock, bird, bush, and mountain He s loving, salty, pet Anyone who thinks about nature will find things to love and despise about Desert Solitaire One moment he s waxing on about the beauty of the cliffrose or the injustice of Navajo disenfranchisement and the next he s throwing rocks at bunnies and recommending that all dogs be ground up for coyote food He says the personification of the natural is exactly the tendency I wish to suppress in myself p 6 and then proceeds to personify every rock, bird, bush, and mountain He s loving, salty, petulant, awed, enraptured, cantankerous, ponderous, erudite, bigoted and just way too inconsistent to figure out what he s really trying to say.Which, clearly, is the wrong question all together This book is about the desert and it is about Abbey and I don t think judging either of them is a particularly fruitful line of inquiry Instead, think of Abbey as the naturalist s Id, the unfiltered conservationist urge, and the desert as the distilled un human world where that beast rages and sleeps If you love nature and you re appreciating an amazing view, you probably feel a very basic, child like wonder And if you then see some idiot drive by and throw an empty bottle out of his Hummer, I bet that at least for a moment, there is an Abbey esque part of you that wishes the humans were dead Well, most of the humans Except for the ones that you like And the ones that they like And you know, the Hummer guy probably isn t all bad, just ignorant But that first set of emotions, that, to me, seems to be the human half of this book, and in that sense, Abbey does a wonderful job exploring a wide range of emotional, personal reactions to the outdoors And in the end, I think he provides so many contradictory personifications of the desert that they get all get stuck in the door Three Stooges style, and you re left with fairly dehumanized sense of the desert itself.I ve never been to Utah myself, so I put together this gallery of some of the scenes and things in the book.Words Notesdemesne n a feudal lord s land, where the serfs labored p 5 usufructuary n the holder of an usufruct, which is the right to use or benefit from property that you do not own p 5 Loveliness and exultation This line made me consider the possibility that my favorite nature writers tend to spend as much time describing discomfort and horror at the hands of nature as they do adulating it Abbey definitely gets at the former later in the book I wonder if part of the reason some people find this kind of writing boring is a surfeit of ecstasy most readers don t share.gelid adj icy, cold p 16 Don t really care for ants He also apparently doesn t like tarantulas Sad p 26 pismire n an ant, apparently because formic acid smells like piss p 26 There is no beauty in nature, said Baudelaire Would love a citation p 36 sinecure n an office without power or responsibility p 41 To refute the solipsist or the metaphysical idealist all that you have to do is take him out and throw a rock at his head if he ducks he s a liar p 97 Fear betrays the rabbit to the great horned owl Fear does the hard work, making the owl s job easy After a lifetime of dread it isthan likely that the rabbit yields to the owl during that last moment with a sense of gratitude, as pleased to be eaten finally as the owl is to eat This is the kind of anthropomorphism I m talking about p 98 Has joy any survival value in the operations of evolution I suspect that it does I suspect that the morose and fearful are doomed to quick extinction p 125 In the desert , wrote Balzac, somewhere,.there is all and there is nothing God is there and man is not I would love to source this quote but I just can t find it Was Abbey s recollection faulty p 184 He occasionally makes the point that the most horrifying thing about nature is not its capacity to mame, murder, and eat us, but its implacable indifference We don t fear the world because it s out to get us, we fear it because it doesn t even notice us, it doesn t even care enough to despise us I like this idea Oceans crush us, storms flatten us, lions eat us, viruses subvert us, not because we deserve it, but just because we happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time They re scary because they don t acknowledge us, and make us doubt our own reality This is why Alien will always be scarier than the Predator p 191 Gaze not too long into the abyss Apparently this is Nietzsche Reminds me of Neal s paraphrasing, If you look too long at a makefile, the abyss looks back at you p 210 I had no idea delphinium was toxic enough to kill cows Go delphinium p 222 In possibly his only citation, Abbey notes I think 2 Kings 3, which describes how the armies of Israel, Judah, and Edom lay waste to the Jordanian land of Moab Not sure what he was getting at That Moab, UT also suffers at human hands Incidentally, the Moabites were founded when Lot s own daughters seduced him and got preggers Scandalous p 227 This came across my horizon through a list book the 1000 books you should read before you die, by J Mustich never had I heard of Edward Abbey and his fierce opinions specifically captured in his book Desert Solitaire, all about the nature spilled over the earth in the Four Corners area of the southwest I don t usually think about that area I was deeply in love there once upon a time, a love that slid into a carefully catered the most overused word these days, but accurate in many This came across my horizon through a list book the 1000 books you should read before you die, by J Mustich never had I heard of Edward Abbey and his fierce opinions specifically captured in his book Desert Solitaire, all about the nature spilled over the earth in the Four Corners area of the southwest I don t usually think about that area I was deeply in love there once upon a time, a love that slid into a carefully catered the most overused word these days, but accurate in many ways forgetfulness So all things Zion Park, Grand Canyon, Moab and Kanab.yeah I rarely go there in real life or in my imagined life.But then this book slaps itself into my Things to Do and I did So lovely His voice is so of its time Not politically correct Not compelled to wear pants Not bending to your preferences in exchange for continued reading time His tone is a warm, gravelly, Read Me Or Don t and I liked it a lot E Abbey was mostly writing in the desert, alone, and that sure worked for him He thought big, important thoughts worthwhile to this work a day woman who doesn t particularly see herself spending any time in a desert again my growing up had a lot of time in Joshua Tree, outhouses and all Still, I easily agreed to stretch and join him, snuggling close in my head as he waxes poetic about the stars, the beauty of snake eyes and spider webs and the weight of human history in the resting air It s fantastic prose.If you need a vacation, a get away place, but have no time, money or ability to do it read this When you close the book, I m pretty sure you ll see a bit of red dust on your footwear, and reach for a bandana to wipe that dampness off your brow 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 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 , 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 mentio 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 , 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 The only problem with waiting so long to read a seminal work, by a seminal author, is that you have the idea in your head who they will be ThisI kept thinking This is the controversial Edward Abbey This is what s considered polemic What, this good hud common sense More funny than it has a right to be More alive Also, what Abbey held up himself as his standard interesting, original, important, and true A deep respect for our wilderness andimportantly, our wildness and a deep The only problem with waiting so long to read a seminal work, by a seminal author, is that you have the idea in your head who they will be ThisI kept thinking This is the controversial Edward Abbey This is what s considered polemic What, this good hud common sense More funny than it has a right to be More alive Also, what Abbey held up himself as his standard interesting, original, important, and true A deep respect for our wilderness andimportantly, our wildness and a deep offense taken at the myriad threats to it I like finding my people Abbey is my people, without a box to hold him I knew myself well enough to haveAbbey on hand once I read my first one, and what s interesting is, in Postcards From Ed, how harsh his own commentary is on Desert Solitaire Well, not harsh He honored it But he saw it as the first stepping stone, one rock of many, whereas, apparently, he got weary of the lifelong fire from those who saw fault and not virtue and humor in what he called its superficial notions With Desert Solitaire I was only getting started, Abbey wrote, and thank God for that I wanted to like this a lotthan I was able to Abbey includes some beautifully poetic writing about the desert landscape at times and if that remained the central focus of the book, it would be fantastic however, the other focus of Desert Solitaire is Abbey himself and, at least based on the way he presents himself here, I just don t like Edward Abbey He s pompous, both racist and sexist, hypocritical, and a rabbit murderer He s not the kind of company I want to keep. I m not sure why everyone loves this book, or Edward Abbey in general I couldn t even finish this He is a macho hypocritical egomaniac, hiding behind the veil of saving the earth.totally thumbs down.