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Nature's Writers Trail: Abbey

Library Guide for the Nature Writer's Trail.

Edward Abbey
January 29, 1927 - March 14, 1989

His writings, mostly about or set in the Western deserts, ranged from intensely detailed descriptions of the natural world to angry and satirical commentaries on effects of modern civilization on American wild-lands. Abbey held anarchist convictions, and he viewed government and industry as collaborators in the destruction of the natural environment. Desert Solitaire and Abbey's comic novel The Monkey Wrench Gang achieved success, granting Abbey a strong following among members of the counterculture of the 1970's and beyond. The overarching emphasis of Abbey's writing, however, was personal and philosophical; like the 19th-century New England essayist Henry David Thoreau, to whom he has been compared, Abbey viewed the natural world in almost mystical terms.

  • "Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread."

  • ‚Äč"The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders."

  • "May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view."

  • He was honorably discharged from the US Army in 1947, he used the stipends he received as a result of the G.I. Bill to attend college, first at Indiana University in Pennsylvania, and then at the University of New Mexico, where he graduated with a philosophy degree in 1951.
  • He received a master's degree in philosophy at the University of New Mexico in 1959.
  • He worked as a park ranger and fire lookout for the National Park Service between books.

  • Fire on the Mountain (1962)
  • The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975)
  • Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness (1968)
  • The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West (1977)
  • Abbey's Road: Take the Other (1979)
  • Confessions of a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey (1951-1989, 1994)
  • Earth Apples: The Poetry of Edward Abbey (1994)

  • He was a Fulbright Fellow from 1951 to 1952, as well as a Guggenheim Fellow in 1975.
  • His novel Fire on the Mountain won him the Western Heritage Award for Best Novel in 1963.
  • In 1987 he was granted the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, an honor that he declined due to plans to run a river in Idaho the week of the ceremony.

Abbey's Road

Abbey's explorations include the familiar territory of the Rio Grande in Texas, Canyonlands National Park, and Lake Powell in Utah. He also takes readers to such varied places as Scotland, the interior of Australia, the Sierra Madre, and Isla de la Sombra in Mexico.

Down the River

Abbey published this book in 1982. It is a loose collection of autobiographical and philosophical essays about the wilderness, written between 1978 and 1982.

Desert Solitaire

An account of the author's experiences, observations, and reflections as a seasonal park ranger in southeast Utah.

The Fool's Progress (Interlibrary Loan)

When his third wife abandons him in Tucson, boozing, misanthropic anarchist Henry Holyoak Lightcap shoots his refrigerator and sets off in a battered pick-up truck for his ancestral home in West Virginia. Accompanied only by his dying dog and his memories, the irascible warhorse (a stand-in for the "real" Abbey) begins a bizarre cross-country odyssey--determined to make peace with his past--and to wage one last war against the ravages of "progress."

Fire on the Mountain (Interlibrary Loan)

Edward Abbey’s classic 1962 novel, Fire on the Mountain, still retains its beauty, power, and relevance.

Confessions of a Barbarian (Interlibrary Loan)

Few have cared more about American wilderness than the irascible Cactus Ed. Author of eco-classics such as The Monkey Wrench Gang and Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey reveals all his rough-hewn edges and passionate beliefs in this witty, outspoken, maddening, and sometimes brilliant selection of journal entries that takes the writer from his early years as a park ranger and would-be literary author up to his death in 1989.

The Serpents of Paradise (Interlibrary Loan)

This book is different from any other Edward Abbey book. It includes essays, travel pieces and fictions to reveal Ed's life directly, in his own words. The selections gathered here are arranged chronologically by incident, not by date of publication, to offer Edward Abbey's life from the time he was the boy called Ned in Home, Pennsylvania, until his death in Tucson at age 62.