Serpents of Paradise: A Reader

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Overview

From boyhood in Home, Pennsylvania, to his death in Tucson, Arizona, in 1989, this book offers - in Abbey's own words - the world of an American original. Whether writing fact or fiction, Abbey was always an autobiographer. Each of the thirty-five selections presented here, arranged chronologically by date of incident (not of publication), demonstrates that Abbey was passionately, insistently his own man. As poet-farmer Wendell Berry puts it: "He remains Edward Abbey, speaking as and for himself, fighting, ...
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The Serpents of Paradise: A Reader

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Overview

From boyhood in Home, Pennsylvania, to his death in Tucson, Arizona, in 1989, this book offers - in Abbey's own words - the world of an American original. Whether writing fact or fiction, Abbey was always an autobiographer. Each of the thirty-five selections presented here, arranged chronologically by date of incident (not of publication), demonstrates that Abbey was passionately, insistently his own man. As poet-farmer Wendell Berry puts it: "He remains Edward Abbey, speaking as and for himself, fighting, literally, for dear life ... for the survival not only of nature, but of human nature, of culture, as only our heritage of works and hopes can define it." To speak for the voiceless was his mission. He was a virtuoso of the well-phrased thought in which style and content, symbol and meaning - each imbued with humor - come together to defy the powerful, reminding us always that preservation of wild nature is a key to a free spirit. And along with Emerson and Thoreau, Abbey, the uncompromising stylist, knew that the corruption of language follows the corruption of man. "Language," Abbey wrote, "seeks to transcend itself, 'to grasp the thing that has no name.'"
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The late Abbey was not only a singularly talented novelist some of whose books have acquired cult status (The Brave Cowboy; The Monkey Wrench Gang; The Fool's Progress), but also a polemicist of considerable force and an eloquent essayist. This anthology, edited by his longtime editor and friend Macrae, makes for a splendid summary of his best work-though it does not slight his faults. Abbey was above all a committed craftsman (``I write to make a difference''); and his passions-about the rape by ranchers and the industrial powers of his beloved Western desert country, the progressive disintegration of the quality of modern life, the dread development that would ``democratize'' wilderness by making it easily accessible to all-are on plain view. So, too, are his liabilities: his occasional outbursts of xenophobia and old-fashioned sexism, his gleefully overweening destructive fantasies. Abbey was an anarchist at heart, an often difficult loner who would probably find life unendurable in any organized, populous society. But as an analyst and gadfly of so many contemporary absurdities, and as a powerfully lyrical chronicler of desert solitudes and communion with nonhuman nature (something like Barry Lopez in a snit), he is in a class by himself. Anyone who doesn't already know his work will find this volume, culled from more than a dozen books of fiction and nonfiction, an addictive introduction. (Mar.)
Library Journal
To sample the best of Abbey's work is to whet the appetite for more. Excerpts from One Life at a Time, Please (LJ 2/1/88), the journal ramblings Desert Solitaire (LJ 1/1/68), the autobiographical The Fool's Progress (LJ 11/1/88), the comical novel The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975), and other pieces are arranged chronologically by incident from Abbey's boyhood in Home, Pennsylvania, to his death near Tucson, Arizona, in 1989 at age 62. Biographical remarks by John Macrae, Abbey's longtime editor and publisher, introduce each of the book's four segments. Abbey said that he wrote "to entertain my friends and to exasperate my enemies," "to honor life and to praise the divine beauty of the natural world," and "to tell my story." He does all remarkably. If your library is Abbey-deficient, this collection is essential.-Cathy Sabol, Northern Virginia Community Coll., Manassas
Donna Seaman
Abbey was a true independent, a self-declared extremist and "desert mystic," and a hell of a good writer. Irreverent about man and reverent toward nature, Abbey wielded his pen as a weapon in the battle for freedom and wilderness and against arrogance and greed. A Pennsylvania native, he fell headlong in love with the glorious desert of the Southwest, the subject of most of his books, after hitchhiking cross country at the tender age of 17. This collection of his works was put together by Abbey's editor and publisher, John Macrae, who has wisely chosen to organize these outstanding essays, travel pieces, and works of fiction to parallel events in Abbey's unusual life. Since everything Abbey wrote was autobiographical no matter what literary form it took, a biographical structure is the ideal context for a sampling of his work. His fiction is represented by excerpts from several of his novels, including "Brave Cowboy" (1950), "The Fool's Progress" (1988), and "The Monkey Wrench Gang" (1975), while his nonfiction, usually considered his strongest and most influential writing, is culled from many sources, including his most lyrical book, "Desert Solitaire" (1985).
From the Publisher
"Praise the earth for Edward Abbey. . . .

The announcement of a new Abbey book, whether essays or fiction, stirs a personal craving no other current American writer can satisfy."—Los Angeles Book Review

“Abbey was a true independent, a self-declared extremist and ‘desert mystic,’ and a hell of a good writer. . . . John Macrae has wisely chosen to organize these outstanding essays, travel pieces, and works of fiction to parallel events in Abbey’s unusual life.”—Booklist

"A record as important and lovely as Muir's and Thoreau's."—William McKibben, author of The End of Nature

“A splendid summary of his best work. . . . Anyone who doesn’t already know his work will find this volume, culled from more than a dozen books of fiction and nonfiction, an addictive introduction.”—Publishers Weekly

"Abbey was many things as a writer, and his longtime editor, John Macrae, has put together a collection which follows the course of Abbey's life through his own work. It is a clever way to anthologize a talent who is impossible to pigeonhole. . . . A fine introduction to a writer who seems certain to endure and is, undeniably, an American original."—Geoffrey Norman, American Way

"Abbey's work is a kind of blessed voice in the wilderness any way you take it, and a precious figure in our lethal time."—W.S. Merwin

"The Serpents of Paradise is without question the best Abbey reader."—David Petersen, editor of Confessions of a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey, 1951-1989

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805031324
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/1995
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.27 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.29 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward Abbey was born in 1927 in Pennsylvania. He earned graduate and postgraduate degrees from the University of New Mexico. He wrote Desert Solitaire while working as a Park Ranger in Utah. He is also the author of The Monkey Wrench Gang, Abbey's Road, and The Journey Home, among others. He died in March 1989.

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