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Desert Solitaire [PDF / EPUB] Desert Solitaire First published in 1968 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 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 uest 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.

10 thoughts on “Desert Solitaire

  1. says:

    Desert Solitaire seemed the right book to take along on a trip to the southwest in September 2009 Abbey writes of the beauty of the southwest As a ranger at Arches National Park he had a close relationship with some of our country’s most exuisite scenery In the 18 essays that make up the book he offers not only his appreciation for the sometimes harsh environment of Utah and Arizona but his notions on things political Those are not so compelling He tells tales of people he has known and in doing so enhances an image of his southwest as at once a beautiful and terrible place North Window in Arches National ParkHowever I have concluded with apologies to Ernest Thompson that Edward Abbey is an old poop It is one thing to have a deep and abiding appreciation for a place a thing an experience an environment but Abbey seems determined that only certain sorts should be allowed to share that joy And while he may wish for us as readers to appreciate what he appreciates he seems uninterested in allowing for other joys by other people While he offers detail and poetry about the desert and about untouched places he sneers at the urban at those he sees as lesser than himself As such he taps into some tried and true American themes such as the romantic myth of self sufficiency and our persistent national history of anti city bias Toss in some other dark impulses when he suggests that perhaps birth control for some poor people should be mandatory Add a dose of survivalist paranoia as he sees one strong reason to support National Parks to be preserving a staging area for rebel militias after big government comes after us all But don’t forget a gift for language for description for story telling and a strong poetic sensibilityPark Avenue in Arches National ParkFor those of us who for whatever reasons may not be able to manage ten mile hikes or who cannot rappel down canyon walls to experience the full range of experience available at our national parks for those who may not have dedicated our existences to living as closely to the land as possible we also are Americans we also are people and it is possible to take joy in natural wonder without the benefit of Abbey’s athleticism He clearly winces at the possibility of roads being built that allow the non hikers among us a chance to see at all up close or at least closer some of the parts of our parks that are currently inaccessible and he decries as abominations the possibility of mechanisms being constructed that provide an enhanced experience to those in wheelchairs as if that were somehow shameful Having just returned from several of the national parks mentioned in this book I can safely report that I saw much stunning beauty felt my appreciation of my country’s natural wonders swell and believe that it is my entitlement as an American no less than 20 something backpackers to take joy in this common heritage My inability to manage a back country hike should not prevent me and others like me from sharing in our nation’s natural wonders Surely there is a happy medium between the paving over of everything that Abbey fears and allowing reasonable access to our nation’s natural treasures to those of us who are not outdoorsmenBalanced Rock at Arches National ParkBeyond my gripes about his notions concerning who should be allowed into our parks and other dark political impulses Abbey is a very gifted writer He has many stories to tell both about his personal experiences and about other characters he has encountered in his southwest existence His love of the land comes through like a cactus barb into an unshod foot You will get a feel for the lands he portrays the land he loves In addition he seasons his narrative with references to refined culture that one might find a bit surprising in a guy who presents as a mountain man I have not read Abbey’s later writings so will keep an open mind on where he wound up regarding his politics I may not harbor particularly warm feelings for the guy overall but I do share his love of our national parks his visceral appreciation for natural beauty and appreciate his great skill as a writer Hold your nose over some of the darker parts of this book but it is a special read when he is not rantingThe shots in the review are mine from that tripYou might check out this wonderful article by Douglas Brinkley about Abbey and this book President Trump Please Read ‘Desert Solitaire’

  2. says:

    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 panegyristUpdate 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 Turuoise 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

  3. says:

    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 ualities 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 governmentYet 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 wrote elouently 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 elouent plea for the preservation of the wonders of the Southwest desertOne point 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 a appropriate and inspiring setting

  4. says:

    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 sayWhich clearly is the wrong uestion 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 inuiry 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 esue 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 itselfI've never been to Utah myself so I put together this gallery of some of the scenes and things in the bookWords Notesdemesne n a feudal lord's land where the serfs labored p 5usufructuary n the holder of an usufruct which is the right to use or benefit from property that you do not own p 5Loveliness 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 sharegelid adj icy cold p 16 Don't really care for ants He also apparently doesn't like tarantulas Sad p 26pismire n an ant apparently because formic acid smells like piss p 26There is no beauty in nature said Baudelaire Would love a citation p 36sinecure n an office without power or responsibility p 41To 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 97Fear 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 is than 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 98Has joy any survival value in the operations of evolution? I suspect that it does; I suspect that the morose and fearful are doomed to uick extinction p 125'In the desert' wrote Balzac somewherethere is all and there is nothing God is there and man is not' I would love to source this uote but I just can't find it Was Abbey's recollection faulty? p 184He 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 191Gaze 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 210I had no idea delphinium was toxic enough to kill cows Go delphinium p 222In 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

  5. says:

    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 Kanabyeah I rarely go there in real life or in my imagined lifeBut 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 proseIf 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

  6. says:

    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 ParkAbbey 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 euivalent of Ansel AdamsOh 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

  7. says:

    Almost all my friends who have read this book have given it five stars but not written reviews Hey friends pokeI 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 internetOf 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 SpringEdward 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 climateI 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 thereI 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

  8. says:

    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 This? I 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— and importantly 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 himI knew myself well enough to have Abbey 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

  9. says:

    I wanted to like this a lot than 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

  10. says:

    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 earthtotally thumbs down

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