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Desert Solitaire Paperback – January 15, 1990

4.5 out of 5 stars 428 customer reviews
Book 1 of 7 in the Edward Abbey Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, the noted author's most enduring nonfiction work, is an account of Abbey's seasons as a ranger at Arches National Park outside Moab, Utah. Abbey reflects on the nature of the Colorado Plateau desert, on the condition of our remaining wilderness, and on the future of a civilization that cannot reconcile itself to living in the natural world. He also recounts adventures with scorpions and snakes, obstinate tourists and entrenched bureaucrats, and, most powerful of all, with his own mortality. Abbey's account of getting stranded in a rock pool down a side branch of the Grand Canyon is at once hilarious and terrifying.

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An American Masterpiece. A Forceful Encounter with a Man of Character and Courage.
The New York Times Book Review Like a ride on a bucking bronco...rough, tough, combative. The author is a rebel and an eloquent loner. His is a passionately felt, deeply poetic book...set down in a lean, racing prose, in a close-knit style of power and beauty. --The New Yorker
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (January 15, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671695886
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671695880
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (428 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Edward Abbey was born in Home, Pennsylvania, in 1927. He was educated at the University of New Mexico and the University of Edinburgh. He died at his home in Oracle, Arizona, in 1989.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Edward Abbey's DESERT SOLITAIRE belongs on the shortest of several short lists of 20th century classics, whether we are talking of classic literature of the American West, nature writing, or environmentalism.
Why is this such a brilliant book? It isn't the originality of ideas. Other writers-Aldo Leopold, Wallace Stegner, Bernard DeVoto, Mary Austin-had already articulated many of Abbey's central ideas either about nature or about Western policy. Bernard DeVoto was an innovator; Abbey is not. Nor is Abbey's anger and fury at exploiters and defilers unique: DeVoto was just as irate and just as incapable of pulling his punches. Nor is it Abbey's overall vision that makes his book so compelling. Again, both DeVoto and Stegner-and especially DeVoto-evidenced a broader and more systematic understanding of the broader issues confronting the West. None of this is accidental. DeVoto exerted a major influence on Stegner, and Stegner taught Abbey in the Stanford University Creative Writing Program.
What makes DESERT SOLITAIRE so marvelous is the almost tactile love and passion Abbey displays for the Desert Southwest. Over and over Abbey summons up specific places, particular mountains, individual landscapes. Although he can write about the desert in general, he more frequently writes about particular spots in Arches National Park and the surrounding environs that help explain his attachment to the West. He is the literary equivalent, in his more somber, reflective moments, of Eliot Porter and Ansel Adams. As a result, what one recalls upon remembering DESERT SOLITAIRE is not words so much as a collection of images.
Structurally, the book only resembles a memoir of his time working as a park ranger in the Arches National Park.
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Format: Paperback
Edward Abbey didn't like to be known as a nature writer (he was far too proud of his fiction), but after reading this book I would have to say he is among the best. Before I read this book, I had never even considered traveling to the Southwest, this book changed that, and the way I look at nature forever. Abbey has rightfully been called the Thoreau of the American West, this book more than any other shows us why. In Desert Solitaire Abbey is at his best, doing for the Southwest what Thoreau did for Concord and Walden.
One of the great strenghts of this book is the way Abbey weaves together such a wide array of subject matter, which illustrates the seemingly endless variety of experience, in what is thought by many to be an inhospitable wasteland. In a collection of breif chapters Abbey touches on everthing from the incredible beauty of forgotton canyons, the Southwest's past inhabitants, a feral horse, the Colorado river, the perils of industrial tourism, and the story of a man who may have came to die at the edge of a cliff.
In this book you get a great sampling of everything Abbey has to offer, from his stinging wit and dark humor, rage and sadness concerning the destruction of nature, and finally to hope. Edward Abbey has accomplished on the printed page, what Ansel Adams' photography has done for the Southwest. And yes, both immortalize a time and a place that are being destroyed forever, little by little, day by day, but leaving for us a sad and yet wonderful record of what used to be, and why what is left is worth saving. Desert Solitaire is both a celebration and a lamentation for the disappearing landscapes, and hidden canyons that Abbey chose as his own paradise, and if you read this book it may become yours too. Like Abbey's says get out of your cars and crawl in the sand, and EXPERIENCE what nature has to offer, you might just be surprised at what you find.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
"I would rather kill a man than a snake," wrote Edward Abbey, and I suspect he even meant it. That sentence summed up, for me, this book: it is filled with Abbey's love of the wild desert and its inhabitants and his contempt for modernity and its inhabitants. I think Abbey was one of the early voices in modern environmentalism, and this is a classic book in that field. I appreciate his desert and his writing; even if you are not an environmentalist nor a lover of the desert, you may see why people are if you read this. At any rate, his deep naturalist reflections deserve consideration in our fast-food, internet, climate-controlled, sanitized and artificial age.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I just ordered Desert Solitaire for my dear friend Joel Stone after having a great conversation with him about his trip to Utah to visit his wife's family. It has been over twenty years since I read the book, back when I was living in Utah, teaching at East High School in Salt Lake City and going to the desert every chance I had. Abbey brings the desert to life like no other author I have read. In fact, he is the one writer who portrayed the desert as a real living scene. When I go back and read passages from Solitaire, it is like I am back in the desert trudging through the sand between some fins or gazing across the vistas watching the waves of heat undulate. Abbey's accomplishment in this book is his focus on the minute details of the desert and how it feels to be there. His description of how the whole world comes to a stop in the middle of the day when the heat hits hard is right on target. My wife and I and our oldest daughter Margo were camped in the Arches in July and had to seek refuge from the heat by climbing up between two fins and simply sit there on the slightly damp sand and spend the afternoon reading and playing games. There was a cool, damp breeze coming down between the fins less than a foot thick off the ground. This is the kind of experience that Abbey can bring to you with his writing and which gets you to the point where you want to go out and strap on the roof rack and head for the desert just to feel the heat and watch the eagles and vultures circle overheat. His treatment of the local human culture of Moab in his early desert days is outstanding. The characters are bigger than life, although essentially none of them were famous people. You can smell their sweat and hear their curses and feel the bumps as you ride around with them in their old pickups and jeeps.Read more ›
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