Sunday, March 28, 2010

Edward Abbey

On Wednesday, we decided that it might be a good idea to review internet (and print, of course) resources for information on Edward Abbey's reception. This followed on our initial question of Wednesday's class, regarding whether Abbey is an environmentalist (and if so, what kind) or an existentialist. How is he received as an environmentalist? How are some of Abbey's more problematic pronouncements from _Desert Solitaire_ received by literary critics, by book reviewers, by members of those potentially offended groups? Let me know what you find out!


  1. I am having trouble locating any criticism on Edward Abbey or Desert Solitaire that I don't have to pay for, but I did come across a "fan" page, This site has several articles from fans and even works from Abbey himself. The thing I found most interesting was an interview done by Eric Temple at the Public Television station KAET in Phoenix. The interview was done in December of 1982. The last question asked of Abbey was: What do you see your role as, social commentator, author?
    Abbey's Response: "My role...I see myself as an entertainer. I'm trying to write good books, make people laugh, make them cry, provoke them, make them angry, make them think if possible. To get a reaction, give pleasure. I do not see myself as a social commentator because I don't look at any of these things we've been talking about hard enough, I'm not really skilled at it. "
    I don't believe Abbey would have been comfortable with being associated with any group whether Environmentalist or Existentialist. I think he truly believed he was writing harmless anecdotal rants.

  2. The only thing relating to his "reception" by the public that I could dig up was a review from The New Yorker, which said that the book was full of "healthy hate" and "highly recommended." I did not look especially far.

    Personally I would have to agree with Liz on the point that Abbey did not want to be associated with any particular group. To paraphrase from "Men in Black" (my literary background is stunning, I know), "A person is smart, people are dumb, panicky animals." Abbey of all people seemed to agree with this, at least when it came to people acting as a group, or governments acting on behalf of people. It is easy to see him as an environmentalist, less so as an existentialist; this, I think, is because existentialism is the sort of idea cooked up in a study or a classroom, heavily theoretical and detached from measurable, verifiable reality. <--broad generalization, pass with care