At last, one of the most popular books on the American West is available once again in hardcover. In celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Desert Solitaire, the University of Arizona Press is pleased to publish a new edition featuring a new introduction by the author, his definitive corrections to the text, and new illustrations commissioned exclusively for this volume.
Edward Abbey’s account of two summers spent in southeastern Utah’s canyonlands is surely one of the most enduring works of contemporary American nature writing. In it he tells of his stint as a park ranger at Arches National Monument, of his love for the natural beauty that surrounded him, and of his distaste for the modernizing improvements designed to increase visitation to the park.
“I confess to being a nature lover,” admits Abbey more than thirty years after his sojourn in the wilderness. “But I did not mean to be mistaken for a nature writer. I never wanted to be anything but a writer, period.” First published in 1968 to “a few brief but not hostile notices,” Desert Solitaire quietly sold out of its first printing but eventually developed a loyal enough following in paperback to earn Abbey the “nature writer” label he claims never to have wanted.
Desert Solitaire lives on because it is a work that reflects profound love of nature and a bitter abhorrence of all that would desecrate it. “Abbey is one of our very best writers about wilderness country,” observed Wallace Stegner in the Los Angeles Times Book Review; “he is also a gadfly with a stinger like a scorpion.” “This book may well seem like a ride on a bucking bronco,” added Edwin Way Teale in the New York Times. “It is rough, tough, combative…passionately felt, deeply poetic.” But perhaps the spirit of the man, the work, and the circumstances of its writing were best summarized by Larry McMurtry in his review for the Washington Post: “Edward Abbey is the Thoreau of the American West.”
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Say what you may about Edward Abbey Quotes, but they are always thought-provoking, and ultimately, stimulating. Perhaps they are more than anything, a call to action for the most human part of the spirit within us.
“Poetry and Revolution Before Breakfast”. (From Desert Solitaire).
“If America could be, once again, a nation of self-reliant farmers, craftsmen, hunters, ranchers, and artists, then the rich would have little power to dominate others. Neither to serve nor to rule: that was the American dream”.
“High technology has done us one great service. It has taught us the delight of performing simple and primordial tasks – chopping wood, building a fire, drawing water from a spring”.
“How to overthrow the system: brew your own beer; kick in your Tee Vee; kill your own beef; build your own cabin and piss off the front porch whenever you bloody well feel like it”.
“Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second”.
Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Of course, people with guns kill more people. But that’s only natural. It’s hard. But it’s fair.
The tank, the B-52, the fighter-bomber, the state-controlled police and military are the weapons of dictatorship. The rifle is the weapon of democracy. Not for nothing was the revolver called an “equalizer.” Egalite implies liberte. And always will. Let us hope our weapons are never needed — but do not forget what the common people of this nation knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny”.
“One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am –a reluctant enthusiast…a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still there. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards”.
“If industrial man continues to multiply his numbers and expand his operations he will succeed in his apparent intention, to seal himself off from the natural and isolate himself within a synthetic prison of his own making. He will make himself an exile from the earth and then will know at last, if he is capable of feeling anything, the pain and agony of final loss…
“No tyranny is so irksome as petty tyranny: the officious demands of policeman, government, clerks, and electromechanical gadgets”. “A man could be a lover and defender of the wilderness without ever in his lifetime leaving the boundaries of asphalt, power lines, and right-angled surfaces. We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to go there. I may never in my life get to Alaska…but I am grateful that it’s there. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis”. (From Desert Solitaire)”Once upon a time, I dreamed of becoming a great man. Later, a great man. Now, finally, I find it difficult enough and honor enough to be – a man”.
“There comes a time in the life of us all when we must lay aside our books or put down our tools and leave our place of work and walk forth on the road to meet the enemy face-to-face. Once and for all and at last”
* Anyone interested in more quotes from Edward Abbey should pick up a copy of “A Voice Crying In The Wilderness (Vox Clamantis in Deserto): Notes From A Secret Journal”. It is “…a collection of lively, outrageous, drop-dead funny, tick-you-off sayings, observations, musings, and aphorisms about life, death, beer drinking, religion, music, literature, the environment, and just about everything else”.
We generally have a copy in stock and for sale.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a price with shipping.
A Journal of Honest Food, Freedom, and The Natural World