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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A season in the wilderness it is
Curiously enough, I found the trail that led me to this exceptional book in a book by French author Yves Berger on the landscape of the American Southwest. Desert Solitaire is something special, though possibly a book with a limited audience made of people who have travelled the Southwest and taken it to their souls. It is a sort of diary of the period Abbey spent as a...
Published on 29 Nov. 2000

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull writing from self centred, selfish person
Interesting glimpse into wilderness, but author is totally self absorbed and easy to quickly get fed up with his belief that his way of thinking is right and everybody else is an idiot. If it weren't for the bureaucrats running the parks there would be no parks. If it weren't for the people who only drive around the parks in their precious short lived, hard earnt holidays...
Published 19 months ago by WebSanity


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A season in the wilderness it is, 29 Nov. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Desert Solitaire (Paperback)
Curiously enough, I found the trail that led me to this exceptional book in a book by French author Yves Berger on the landscape of the American Southwest. Desert Solitaire is something special, though possibly a book with a limited audience made of people who have travelled the Southwest and taken it to their souls. It is a sort of diary of the period Abbey spent as a park ranger in the Arches National Park in Utah. If you're looking for an engrossing plot, well, you won't find it. But if you've been to that area of the world and loved the closeness and vastness of sky and cloud, the colors of the stone, the smell of dust and brush, you will love and treasure this book. And it's all there in the title: the desert and the man.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A loving portrait of the redrock canyons of Utah, 5 Feb. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Desert Solitaire (Paperback)
If you have ever gone to a National Park, and been angered by roads that lead to every attraction, and tourists who don't leave their cars, Edward Abbey agrees with you. He agrees very strongly with you. Here he tells stories from his time in the deserts of Utah and Arizona. His description of Glen Canyon, before it was flooded to create Lake Powell, is the best I have ever read of a place. This is a great, almost poetic description of a place, the desert, that Abbey held a special love for. It is hard to read this book and not bring away your own love of the canyons and mesas, arches and dunes, of the southwestern desert.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deserts are not dull, 27 Nov. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Desert Solitaire (Paperback)
To many the desert is a dull, lifeless place. Not to Abbey. In equal measures poetic and polemic, Abbey's passion for his subject shines through, bringing the desert to life. Not only does he describe what it looks like, but more importantly, what it *feels* like. Desert Solitaire is little short of a masterpiece.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It was the rabbit that bothered me the most...,, 19 Mar. 2011
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Desert Solitaire (Paperback)
Edward Abbey has become an icon of the American environmentalist movement. He left the green rolling hills of Western Pennsylvania, graduated from the University of New Mexico, and felt most at home in the American Southwest. Hum! Desert Solitaire, published in 1968, is his most famous work. It is an espousal of an anti-"developmental" creed; the setting is his one year's employment at Arches National Monument in Utah as a park ranger. He later went on to write The Monkey Wrench Gang (P.S.) no doubt this book is one of the main reasons you have to go through a metal detector and have your bags searched if you visit Glen Canyon Dam. The main character in the MWG is George Washington Hayduke, who is modeled on the very real life, Doug Peacock, a long-time friend and associate of Abbey, and if you want Peacock's side of the story, I highly recommend "Walking It Off."

When Abbey is "on", he is definitely on, and few could write so evocatively of the desert areas of the Southwest, with the implicit plea to: "let's just let things be." Try: "The fire. The odor of burning juniper is the sweetest fragrance on the face of the earth, in my honest judgment; I doubt if all the smoking censers of Dante's paradise could equal it. One breath of juniper smoke, like the perfume of sagebrush after rain, evokes in magical catalysis, like certain music, the space and light and clarity and piercing strangeness of the American West. Long may it burn." Abbey is erudite, and has read of the deserts of the world. How many others have read the works of a fellow curmudgeon, C. M. Doughty, Travels in Arabia Deserta: Volume 1? (p 239). How many others would reference the atonal work of Schoenberg?: "...although both Schoenberg and Krenek lived part of their lives in the Southwest, their music comes closer than any other I know to representing the apartness, the otherness, the strangeness of the desert" (p 255).

But it is his social commentary, and yes, conscious, that is the real cornerstone of his fame. Consider: "They cannot see that growth for the sake of growth is a cancerous madness, that Phoenix and Albuquerque will not be better cities to live in when their populations are doubled again and again. They would never understand that an economic system which can only expand or expire must be false to all that is human." And he goes to make the harsh prediction that these latter-day seven cities of Cibola will likewise be abandoned and buried, as were their predecessors. Succinct expressions of the fate of the American Indians are tied to the dispossessed and lumen-proletariat of the world: "...or the tarpaper villages of Gallup, Flagstaff and Shiprock, it's the same the world over--one big wretched gamily sequestered in sullen desperation, pawed over by social workers, kicked around by the cops and prayed over by the missionaries."

Others have compared Abbey, or at least his vision, to Thoreau, Muir, Leopold, and other environmentalist pioneers. I can't. Both Peacock and the solid biography of Abbey by James Bishop, Epitaph for a Desert Anarchist: The Life and Legacy of Edward Abbey describe his numerous flaws; a strong strain of misanthropy being one of them. You don't love nature more but heaping abuse on the humans who have, all too many times, abused it in turn. But I didn't have to rely on the opinions of others to reach this conclusion, it is right there in this book: picking up the stone, and killing the rabbit, not for food, but just to see what it is like. Why, oh why? And could one imagine any of the other three at the beginning of this paragraph doing same.

It is a fundamental problem for readers, and those who want to consider espousing the ideas of an individual, be that person Jean Paul Sartre, William Faulkner, Graham Greene, Robert Graves or so many others. When the person has "feet of clay," and the flaws are even evident in his/her writings, should not a person dock at least one star for the flaws, despite the fame?

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on May 07, 2010)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A man who knows how to experience nature, 22 Feb. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Desert Solitaire (Paperback)
I read this book shortly after returning from a trip to Canyonlands. I have gone to most of the places that he Mr. Abbey discusses. He describes the land exactly as it is: The most beautiful place on earth. He is very articulate and descriptive in this book. One would not have a hard time visualizing all that he has described. He takes a different view of nature by getting down and laying in the dirt. He becomes a part of nature, not a tourist traveling through. More people should appreciate nature the way he does
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is wild, wonderful, blatantly honest and necessary, 23 Oct. 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Desert Solitaire (Hardcover)
If I were stranded on a deserted island and could have one book with me, I would choose this one. It angers me, saddens me, offends me, and elates me. But most of all it inspires me. Each time I read it I uncover something precious and unique. It never grows old. If you truly love all that is convenient and commercialized, if you revel in the gifts technology brings you, don't read it. It's too good for you. If you truly love and are capable of appreciating the serene beauty of the wilderness buy it, read it, then cry. For it's all gone. When you read, read beneath the text. Read deeply into the subtext of this book. It's all about surfaces. Abbey proves that we cannot truly see, experience or appreciate anything unless we can look below the surface as he did.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A celebration of beauty, a discourse against ignorance, 8 Nov. 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Desert Solitaire (Hardcover)
In Desert Solitaire, Abbey puts to words my feelings every time I've visited the desert- "the ideal place, the right place, the one true home." He captures the beauty, but also the grit, the isolation and sparseness, the simplicity-- and the wonder. At moments, Abbey's novel is an expression of humility in the face of perfection, at others, an all-out rage against the raping of these lands for purposes of economic gain and tourism for the masses. If you're looking for a pretty travelogue, don't bother. If you truly love the Desert Southwest, or any of our last remaining fragments of true wilderness, and hurt every time you see the land treated with ignorance and disrespect, you'll love this book. We need more voices like Abbey's.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feel the passion of a man in the wilderness., 16 Sept. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Desert Solitaire (Paperback)
Are you one of those city-people? Working all day in buildings surrounded by steel and stone? Read this book and you wish to be in that wilderness. With poetic words Abbey makes you dream of deep canyons, hot deserts, powerful rivers and high mountains. Feel the heat, thirst and happiness. This book contains the personal and critical view and the experience of an outdoor man in an industrial world. It tells stories about dangerous adventures full of action an humor. If you have ever been in the canyon country this book is a must.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Akin to Thoreau's WALDEN, but of a drier place, 24 Aug. 2009
By 
Mr. Joe (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Desert Solitaire (Paperback)
"There are mountain men, there are men of the sea, and there are desert rats. I am a desert rat." - Edward Abbey in DESERT SOLITAIRE

I'm not sure if I've ever read anything else by Edward Abbey. Perhaps The Monkey Wrench Gang in the rebellious mid-1970s. Memory fails. But in reading DESERT SOLITAIRE, I can see why he was - he died in 1989 - so controversial. A naturalist and rugged individualist, he would be brazenly politically incorrect by today's standards while perhaps not easily categorized as either left or right-wing. I think I'm a huge fan already.

Centered around a six-month stint he did as the lone, resident park ranger in Utah's Arches National Monument - now Arches National Park - in 1958, DESERT SOLITAIRE is Edward Abbey's brilliant tribute to the flora, fauna and geology of the desert Southwest in general and southeastern Utah in particular. For the reader with an active mind's eye, Abbey is at his best when he describes the immediate environs around his Arches trailer residence, his boat trip down the Colorado River through Glen Canyon (before the dam was built), his ascent of Mount Tukuhnikavits, and his descent into The Maze area of what is now Canyonlands National Park.

Much of the controversy surrounding Abbey most certainly emanated from his scathing opinions of the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and what he terms "Industrial Tourism", that insidiously encroaching approach that would have all wilderness areas paved over and built-up to serve hordes of automobile-enclosed tourists whose idea of experiencing the landscape is to drive through in air-conditioned comfort. Indeed, Edward thought the national parks should be accessible only to those who could walk in or ride in on bicycle or mule from huge parking lots at the parks' boundaries. Sometimes, his views seem callous:

"Children too small to ride bicycles and too heavy to be borne on their parents' backs need only wait a few years ... The aged merit even less sympathy: after all they had the chance to see the country when it was still relatively unspoiled. However, we'll stretch a point for those too old or too sickly to mount a bicycle and let them ride the shuttle buses."

(Some that arrive in cars should stay in them. Hiking in the Grand Canyon both last March and last September, my wife and I encountered tourists waltzing down the Bright Angel Trail with Plateau Point - 6.1 miles from the rim - or the Colorado River - 7.7 miles from the rim - as their intended round trip (!) destination without carrying so much as a thimbleful of water. Luckily, there are rangers at key points to turn such fools back. You know, perhaps some selective culling of the species wouldn't hurt; I think Abbey might have agreed.)

His outrage concerning the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam knows no bounds:

"No wonder the Authorities are so anxious to smother the wilderness under asphalt and reservoirs. They know what they're doing; their lives depend on it, and all their rotten institutions. Play safe. Ski only in clockwise direction. Let's all have fun together."

And his description of the doomed Glen Canyon environment approaches the reverential:

"High above our heads the owls hoot under the lost moon. A predawn wind comes sifting and sighing through the cottonwood trees; the sound of their dry, papery leaves is like the murmur of distant water, or like the whispering of ghosts in an ancient, sacrosanct, condemned cathedral."

Abbey's critics made much of his rejection of anthropocentrism, which is evident within the pages of DESERT SOLITAIRE:

"We need coyotes more than we need, let us say, more people, of whom we already have an extravagant surplus, or more domesticated dogs, which in all fairness could and should be ground up into hamburger and used as emergency coyote food, to raise their spirits and perhaps improve the tenor of their predawn howling."

Happily, I'm a cat lover.

However, most of the book's narrative is descriptive rather than philosophic and, at times, becomes all too real as when he tells of the desert search for a lost hiker and his own near-death experience when apparently stranded halfway down an isolated canyon wall beyond any hope of rescue.

DESERT SOLITAIRE is the best book I've read all summer, and perhaps all year. I intend to acquire and read more of the author's stuff.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Under a blood red sky, 20 May 2006
By 
Jago Wells - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Desert Solitaire (Paperback)
The land of dust..of sagebrush and mesas...of prickly pear and diamondbacks found its most eloquent champion in Edward Abbey. A man of words and deep intellect who drove beat up pick up trucks and worked as a state goon living in an isolated silver trailer surrounded by snakes and tumbleweeds,
The enigma that is Edward Abbey is writ large in this minor epic set in the South Western deserts and slickrock canyons.
Death blood and sand spattered with love and tears, Abbey paints a vivid canvas which when seen from a brooding European perspective,ignites in the reader an empathic passion for this strange alien land of soaring eagles and a blinding sun. A land where Cactus Ed walked tall and free.

A great book.
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Desert Solitaire
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey (Mass Market Paperback - 12 Jan. 1985)
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