Jun 26, 2009

Desert Solitaire

A Season in the Wilderness
by Edward Abbey

This is one of those books that I devoured in a mere two days, wondering why in the world I'd never opened it before. Desert Solitaire is a collection of writings Edward Abbey penned about time he spent as a park ranger in Arches National Monument, a spectacular desert near Moab, Utah. Sandstone cliffs, winding gullies and canyons, fantastic formations erosion has created out of rock. Spiny and sinister fauna and flora, amazing sunsets, brutal heat and chill nights.... but not all of his words are about the beauty and strangeness of the desert wilds. He writes about working as a park ranger, frustrations with tourists, searching for lost hikers, railing against litter and waste and development which (in his opinion) spoils the wilderness. He describes days spent gathering range cattle on horseback, exploring the beautiful Glen Canyon right before it was doomed to be drowned by a dam, visiting the depths of the Havasu (whose people I met once before in a book called People of the Blue Water), and an encounter with a runaway horse that had lived alone in the desert for ten years. He muses on the plight of the impoverished Navajo, the place of national parks in the nation's consciousness, and the importance of solitude and wide-open spaces for the health of one's soul. Abbey has lots of strong opinions, and delivers them in a frank, blustering fashion that is at the same time poetic and humorous. I was sometimes taken aback by his sentiment, and I know this is one of his tamer books, too. (I have yet to read The Monkey Wrench Gang but it's on my list now). Even though I don't agree with all of his radical opinions on how to keep wilderness pristine, I find his voice so fresh and invigorating, so unique and lively, that I can't wait to read more of his works.

Another book I read for the TBR Challenge

Rating: 4/5                     269 pages, 1968

More opinions at:
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  1. Moab?? It's definitely going on my list. I desperately want to go to Moab but my husband has already been so it isn't high on his list (my grandmother grew up in a small town outside there). And a book you devoured in two days? Can't beat that!

  2. Sounds like an interesting book - I can't imagine people littering in places like that so I can understand his railing against it.

  3. This sounds fascinating. I can understand how someone might disagree with some of his views (people constantly seem to disagree about these topics, so it's not surprising) but this sounds so interesting. I'd like to hear his views on the matters of littering and development; I'd definitely like to read this.

  4. I thought I owned this! But I can't find it, so on my TBR list it goes! Point to you, Jeane! And I love your new header, by the way. Very very cute.

    I love your review. my mother fell in love with the desert years ago, and while I love water, and trees, I can see what the wide open spaces does for breath for the soul. Thanks for a superb review, Jeane!

  5. I've started the Monkey Wrench Gang twice, but haven't finished it. The radical point of view wearies me, but you make some good points here about the strengths of Abbey's writing. It makes me want to try again.

  6. Thanks to your words, I have to pick this up! We have an English instructor who uses this book to teach his class! :D

  7. When I worked in a bookstore this was always a very popular book and strong seller, but I never had an interest in it. I think I would like to read it now (strange how tastes change over time), so I am adding it to my wishlist. I need to read more nature books.

  8. Trish- It's great. Not so many descriptions of Moab itself, but lots of the surrounding country.

    Bermudaonion- The place was pretty pristine when he was there. I can't imagine what it's like now, with so many more tourists (exactly what he argued against).

    Anonymous Child- I agreed a lot with his ideas of what ought to be done, but now how he would go about doing them. They were just kind of- extreme measures, sometimes. Maybe he felt nothing else would be effective.

    Susan- Thank you, Susan. I do think you'll like this book. It's fascintaing, and has such a vivid feel of the desert. Not a place I like to go- too hot and dry for me- but I love visiting it via a book.

    Janet- Monkey Wrench too radical? It might weary me, too!

    Maggie- I think I would have liked reading this in school. It's got lots of food for thought, but not too boring.

    Danielle- My reading tastes have changed a lot as I've gotten older, too. A lot of books I would have passed up when younger I'm now interested in, and I even go back and read books I disliked as a teen, to see if they suit me better now.

  9. My husband and I both loved this book. I was aghast at him carrying that snake around inside his shirt but everything the man said or did was certainly interesting. I'm glad to see it still being read and reviewed.


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