Toasting Edward Abbey, Wherever He Is

I learned earlier this week that a wedding at which the band I play drums for had been hired to play probably won’t happen as scheduled. The ceremony and reception were to take place in July, in Las Vegas. News that the wedding might be called off came as I was making plans to get out of Las Vegas as soon as the reception was over and head by car to the Grand Canyon. I was brought up to speed on the latest details one recent afternoon, just after I’d listened to an NPR report about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

All this got me thinking about one of my favorite works of nonfiction, Edward Abbey’s thoughtful Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness (McGraw-Hill, 1968), in which he masterfully pointed out that “growth for the sake of growth is a cancerous madness.” The book recounts the experiences Abbey had working for the National Park Service over the course of two summers in Utah’s Arches National Park. 

Desert Solitaire was published a little more than half a decade before Abbey’s irreverent comic novel The Monkey Wrench Gang (Lippincott, 1975), which follows an unlikely quartet of eco-saboteurs as they defend parts of the American Southwest against industrial development.

These books come to mind often. In fact, neither is ever far from my mind as I’m reminded constantly about projects like the Keystone XL pipeline.

Even if the wedding in Las Vegas is called off, I might take the opportunity to visit some of the areas in this country that we haven’t yet converted into one industry platform or another.

After his death in 1989, Abbey was reportedly buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in the Sonoran Desert, in southwestern Arizona. According to the informative website

“… apparently there is a rock at the place bearing a chiseled inscription that says:

Edward Paul Abbey
January 29, 1927-March 14, 1989
No Comment

You will not find it.”

It has crossed my mind to visit the general vicinity, reread a bit of Desert Solitaire in the silence of that wilderness, and offer a toast to one of my literary heroes.  

David Brensilver


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