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Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

Average Rating 4.5
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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 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 May 28, 2011

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