Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Postcards from Ed Abbey

I grew up reading Abbey. At one time all of his novels resided on my bookshelf at our house in Maine.
“If most Americans eventually decide that they want to ... surround our national parks with an industrial slum of strip mines, power plants, trailerhouse cities ... there’s not much that people like me can do about it except complain,” he wrote to an interviewer. And complain Abbey did, as these letters amply demonstrate. Yet it was in his books — most notably “Desert Solitaire,” “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” “The Journey Home” and “The Fool’s Progress” (a bawdy grievance lodged against life itself) — that Abbey took the complaint and transformed it into an art form, distilling beauty from bile. “I know the earth,” Pablo Neruda once wrote, “and I am sad.” That wasn’t enough for Abbey. I know the earth, he roared, and I am mad.
Yeah, I'm mad too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed was never much of a novelist, by his own admission. He sat down in front of his old Underwood, slit open a vein and let his life bleed out across the page of a slightly fictional story.

To me, Ed was a philospher and essayist, much maligned and neglected professions these days, necessary none the less. Someone must, after all, stand aside and provide a cogent commentary on the daily circus, feet firmly planted in the living Earth, head in the clouds, gonads a constant reminder of his animal nature. Ed did it and he did it good.

We need an Ed Abbey even more these sad days, not so much as an environmeddling gadfly, but as a reminder that humans are but one among many species of animals doomed to ultimate extinction after a brief fling at life. Petty tyrants and tin-horn dictators take themsleves far too serious; we need someone to bring them all back to Earth, to the realities of our origins in the wild, the hot blood of the chase and its ultimate gustatorial dénoument.

Unpack those old Abbey books, Mark. They're more pertinent now than they ever were in your youth.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Damn. And I don't mean this as a bad thing, I thought I had Peacock here. I agree to a point but Ed did what all successful novelists do including Hemingway, the greatest in my view, and that's make a fictional story as true as any nonfiction ever written. This always comes from having been there.

8:11 PM  

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