Greenfriar Bookshelf: “Desert Solitaire,” by Edward Abbey

Desert SolitaireLast Thanksgiving, Gizmodo veterans Joel Johnson and John Mahoney started a nice thing called Just One Book, with the idea that people probably had one very important book in their lives, and maybe they could write a blurb about it and … I have no idea, really, because the day I found out about it, Joel was hired to be my semi-boss at Gawker Media and Just One Book was never updated again, the end.

Except: I typed a quick thing about a book I still like, Ed Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, and sent it to Joel. Or, into the voidMight as well put it on Greenfriar as our inaugural ripoff of Just One Book, which we will call “Only One Book” or maybe “That 1 Book.” Or, we will not call it any of those things, because this is the Greenfriar Bookshelf, and Matt Langer is supposedly coding up a whole Online Bookstore for these various titles beloved by your various writers at Greenfriar.

This book has fallen out of favor with environmentalists and that crowd, because Ed Abbey was an interesting character who did not conform to polite liberal notions of how a conservationist was supposed to behave. If there were more oddballs and misfits and poets like Ed Abbey, maybe the environmental movement would not be what it is today: a club for well-off elderly liberals who believe they earn karmic brownie points for listening to All Things Considered. Anyway:

Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey

The less you know about this book, the better. Take it to a lonesome cabin stocked with firewood and booze, preferably with an open landscape of rock and sun all around. Yes, the writing is harsh and beautiful and romantic, and the vast hoodoo landscape of Utah’s slickrock arches will never be far from your imagination again, but you do not read Desert Solitaire for simple entertainment.

This is sacred American writing, as profane and profound as the best American writing, and if you aren’t changed then there’s nothing to worry about, nothing to weep for—not all of us are called to be mystics and drunkards on the desert. Somebody has to make the laws and split the stock and raise the children and watch the music video awards, after all.

A quality book review, befitting the quality of the Internet at Large ….



  1. I concur with you on the choice of Desert Solitaire as being that ONE book. Honestly, this book changed my world-view about lots of things; or rather, this book affirmed for me that it is okay to have seditious thoughts. You know, thoughts like humans aren’t the crown of creation. That other species matter. That growth sucks. That wilderness should be preserved. That we don’t need to colonize every god damned inch of planet Earth. Thought I’d share with you my piece on Desert Solitaire, written about the place where Ed wrote most of the book. This piece came at a certain cost: Park Rangers appeared at my door and cited me for breaking into a National Park during a closure period. 250 bucks, it cost me; I think Ed would have been proud of that. Here’s the piece:

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