Customer Reviews for

Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Posted June 12, 2010

    A Unique Book by A Unique Person

    This book should be read to understand the thinking of one of the most important figures in the modern naturalist movement. Edward Abbey is a unique individual with strong opinions. This book allows the reader to understand Abbey's perspective which was gained by personal experience in some of the most remote areas of this country. The reader should try to understand how someone so connected to the land felt about the intrusion of the modern world. Whether you not you agree with Abbey's opinions, try to understand his perspective. This book is insightful to a time and country that no longer exists. I recently went to Arches National Park to learn that the NPS let the trailer that Abbey lived in deteriorate and they disposed of it. There is nothing left to mark the spot unless you read the book and can find it from Abbey's description. Perhaps that is the way that Abbey himself would have wanted it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2006

    Love it or hate it

    The sun, the sky, a man and the desert dusted rocks of Utah coalesce in prism-like fashion during this autobiographical account of Edward Abbey¿s three seasons as a park ranger. Filled with intensely personal observations and opinions, Abbey takes us on a journey through Arches National Monument, Utah and the surrounding desert countryside as well as through the wilderness of his own mind. Witty and sometimes sardonic accounts of tourists and travelers are disbursed through train-of-thought style recollections along side Abbey¿s own encounters with snakes, scorpions, half-wild horses, and nature itself. Abbey presents his views in paradox his descriptions of the desert wilderness and its seasons seem designed to entice readers to experience it for themselves, even as he urges tourists to stop coming. His story is the foretelling of the loss of our natural heritage, the open and isolated beauty that is the southwest, and the giving over of it to pavement and tourists, dams and housing. Urban sprawl and pollution munching relentlessly in upon nature, overwhelming the beauty of the wilderness as it was in Abbey¿s day. I was informed before reading this novel that I would either love it or hate it, Abbey¿s provoking, rough, crude and often rude observations leave little room for indifferent thoughts. When I first began reading the introduction, I immediately decided that I didn¿t particularly like Abbey or his suggestions, for instance when he urges at the end of his introduction for his readers to not jump into their cars to try to see the places he write about in his book, because there is no view from the inside of a car, and then he suggest that his reader might better experience the desert if they ¿crawl, on hands and knees, over sandstone and through thornbrush and cactus.¿ He then suggests that perhaps when blood begins to mark the reader¿s passage, then they just might have seen something, ¿maybe.¿ (D.S. xii) I heartily disagree, and find that in making such a statement Abbey seems only to be presenting himself as a pontificating jerk, as if only he could possibly walk through the desert and see it for what it is. The fact that he is a transplanted easterner only serves to infuriate me more. This is my back yard, how dare he be offended by the civilized urban sprawl that I grew up in. I have had the desert, my backyard, as my playground to bike and run and play and camp in with my family in unmarked non-touristed locations, for all of my life. It doesn¿t take a scholar or environmentalist or naturalist to understand and appreciate the wilderness of the desert, and how dare he suggest that it does. As a native Arizonian, having grown up amidst the lush desert landscapes and in the harshness of desert heat and dust, I can appreciate Abbey¿s rich descriptions of the desert, while finding his endless list of flora and fauna unnecessary scholarizations designed to take up space between his bouts of demoralizing his readers about the evils of civilization. Mr. Shakespeare could have better critiqued Mr. Abbey¿s work as being, ¿full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.¿ However, as much as he generously laces his book with liberalistic environmental views, I can appreciate his descriptions of Northern Arizona¿s Canyon country before the building of Dams, before Lake Powell and Lake Meade. I can shake my head in sorrow over those places which he has crawled through, that I will never see, buried as they are under the lake waters. I can appreciate him for his descriptions, and I share his hero worship of John Wesley Powell, the first intrepid explorer of the canyons. But, I can also say that I appreciate the things that those Dams have given me, drinking water reservoirs for the years of drought, as well as the electricity they generate which supports my habit of using air conditioning in the summer. So, while I find that I didn¿t particularly like Mr. Abbey¿s book, it was like trying to boat upstream with n

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2007

    One of my all-time favorites

    I seldom read a book twice but I have read this a dozen times. I've loaned it out, I've even read the whole thing out loud to my husband who doesn't read much just so he wouldn't miss it. It's a must read for relaxing, for appreciating nature, for finding yourself, for exploring, and for anyone who ever plans to visit or not visit southern Utah in their lifetime. It will make you love what you¿ve never seen or never expected you would ever want to. Like being eaten by vultures so you could fly over the desert. And the whole time it¿s so subtly and sarcastically funny.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2003

    Uncompromising Environmental Advocacy

    Edward Abbey¿s Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, is an autobiographical account of Abbey¿s stint working as a park ranger at Arches National Monument in Utah. At once this book is philosophical and poetic, yet at the same time, sardonic and polemical. Although the author would probably scowl at such pigeonholing, this book is also a significant environmental statement, as well as being a great piece of literature. In Desert Solitaire, Abbey identifies and adeptly defines a common frustration shared by many writers; the annoyance of not being able to adequately express one¿s self through the medium of words. He states, ¿You cannot get the desert into a book any more than a fisherman can haul up the sea with his nets. Not imitation but evocation has been the goal.¿ However, even through his self-styled ¿evocation¿, he successfully and intimately enfolds his readers within his unique experience. A reluctant naturalist, Abbey blames the human inability to discern the true meaning of nature, on a tendency to always project our own expectations on the natural world. These are tendencies that exasperate him, and yet when he does achieve a near-true communion, as he describes in his experiences in isolation in Havasu Creek, he finds the encounter more disturbing than ecstatic. He describes losing the power to distinguish between himself and the natural world, creating in him a fear that his sense of self was ¿ebbing away.¿ In addition, throughout his career as a writer, Abbey refused the label ¿environmentalist.¿ Nevertheless, his books are useful instruments with which to measure our progress, or lack of progress as the case may be, in our relationship to our natural environment. In this book¿s chapter entitled, ¿Industrial Tourism and the National Parks¿, he lays out his philosophy that ¿growth for growth¿s sake is the ideology of the cancer cell.¿ Looking today at the corruption of the wilderness areas that he warned readers about three and four decades ago, it is plain to see how correct he was in his estimation and condemnation of policies pertaining to our National Parks. Whether he admitted it or not, Abbey set a tone of uncompromising environmental advocacy. In looking at Edward Abbey, the reader is also confronted by contradiction. He passionately argues for the importance of untamed wilderness and against the danger of industrial tourism. He declares he would rather kill a human than a snake, and then casually bops a rabbit on the head with a rock, just to see what his own reaction will be. He beguiles us with his description of Arches, and then chides us for wanting to go there. These passionate paradoxes are the tools he uses most effectively to lure us away from our complacency. Most importantly, Abbey¿s work his work serves as an inspiration to new generations of Western writers and historians, making us realize that wilderness really is a necessary ingredient of civilization.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2012

    Great read!

    Love to read Edward Abbey.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2005

    conservation or preservation

    I have lived in Utah my whole life. I have seen the sunrise at Dead Horse Point and the sunset on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. I have seen the desert at the time of Abby's writing, and I have seen it now. And quite frankly, I am glad it has been made more accessible to all of us. I believe in conserving our beautiful enviroment for future generations to enjoy. I do not believe in preserving it to the exclusion of the public. The enviroment is fragile, but it is also strong. That sounds strange, but it is true. It is not the same as when I was young, nor was the enviroment the same when my pioneer ancestors first came here. But, it is here for our enjoyment and our tender care. I thought Abbey, was a little too radical for my beliefs. It is a good book and it certainly can open our eyes to our surrounding.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2003

    Desert Solitare

    This has opened my eyes to the world that i do not see, i love this book because it paints the picture that a picture cant

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2002

    it was funny

    the book was good and had alot of funny parts that were real good it waa so nice to read i give it two thumbs up

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