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Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast Paperback – August 28, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Touching on civil rights, the environment, Vietnam, immigration, technology, pop culture, industrialism and nearly anything else that has been a hot-button issue since the mid-20th Century, Abbey's letters, collected here and presented in chronological order, offer not only an intriguing portrait of Abbey the writer and individualist, but of the political state of the nation. By turns lucid and measured, warm and intimate, or bitingly cruel (and wickedly funny), Abbey displays a staggering range of concerns, and Abbey's fans will find these missives no less stinging and eloquent than his best fiction. Knowledge of Abbey's work (The Monkey Wrench Gang; Desert Solitaire, etc.) helps put the letters and their author in perspective, though readers unacquainted with Abbey's career may find this a useful introduction.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Edward Abbey (1927-89) was contrary, incorrect, ribald, brilliant, prescient, outspoken, and outraged. He wrote ravishing and stinging essays about the glorious and endangered Southwest (Desert Solitaire is now a classic) and wildly satiric novels--most famously The Monkey Wrench Gang--that explode our cherished myths of the frontier and so-called progress. Abbey wrote incessantly when he wasn't hiking, wooing women, playing with his kids, brooding, or torching billboards, and his favorite thing to write was letters to family, friends, fellow writers, and, most entertainingly, editors of various newspapers and magazines. Abbey expert David Petersen has constructed a high-voltage letter collection that covers every facet of Cactus Ed's full-throttle life, prickly personality, and profound insights into the dire consequences of greed, mindless growth, and the "worship of technology." Every thorny issue Abbey raises in his passionate, entertaining, and hilarious missives remains urgent, from his concerns about rivers and national parks to his harsh anti-immigration diatribes and disgust with commercial culture. Whether he's mocking the New York literati or protesting the Vietnam War, Abbey writes with wit, genius, fury, and molten lyricism. Graced with a profoundly moving foreword by Terry Tempest Williams, this volume of volcanic correspondence is an essential addition to American literature and the literature of the environment. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Milkweed Editions; First Trade Paper Edition edition (August 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1571312854
  • ISBN-13: 978-1571312853
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #994,845 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Dean Smith on January 8, 2007
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"Postcards from Ed" reveal an Edward Abbey that was complex -- provocative and humorous. The letters are well chosen to show Abbey's warmth towards family, anger toward establishment and delight in friendship. More than anything, Abbey's letters create a picture of a man without pretense. Secondhand clothes, trailer-living, rundown trucks and cheap beer were good enough for him so long as he could venture into the deserts of the Southwest to clear his mind and feed his senses. If he wasn't obsessed he was probably depressed. If he didn't have a deadline he was likely lazy. Or so he said.

He didn't tolerate superficial relationships well -- "Yes, to hell with it. Let's call an end to this inane, pointless, worthless pretense at communication. If you're not bored with it, I certainly am." But he knew the value of a good friendship -- "So, let me know what you [Wendell Berry] think, if you care to trouble yourself about this. I would not want to risk endangering the kind of feelings you've shown me in the past for the sake of mere polemical spleen. Your friendship is far more important to me than striving to win points in a formal debate."

He complained, but with a touch of humor -- "This is a complaint. . . What kind of people are you hiring as rangers these days? Where do you find them? They look and act like cops - not rangers - and the next time one of these armed and uniformed goons bothers me I'm going to try to find out if he knows anything about the history, wildlife, plant life or geology of Saguaro National Monument." And - "Your reviewer . . . gives us a good forthright description of the book's author.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Abbeyphile on September 13, 2006
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This book is a great reminder of how far ahead of his time Abbey was. Issues he was concerned about 40 or 50 years ago are argued with a passion and intellect that is missing from today's political discourse. Also missing today is the humor and constructive anger which served as an undercurrent for much of his writing. Beyond all this literary mumbo-jumbo, Abbey still makes for a great read. This is possibly the last of his writing to be published. Savor it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By The Trickster on June 7, 2007
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David Petersen knew writer Ed Abbey and respected him highly. It shows in both collections David has put together about ol' Cactus Ed. This book, a collection of Abbey's letters to friends, family, other writers, business associates, publishers, and letters to the editor and op-ed sections of dozens of newpapers, is a very fine read if you have any desire to gain a deeper understanding of one of the more talented writers this country has produced. There is humor in these letters, as well as sadness, disappointment, love, teasing, heckling, arguing, and yes, some strong disapproval.

I recommend this and Dave Petersen's and Ed Abbey's other books very highly.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Arthur Digbee VINE VOICE on April 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book collects the letters of Edward Abbey, author and provocateur. If you don't know and enjoy his books such as "Desert Solitaire" or "The Monkey Wrench Gang," you should read those first. If you've read his books and want more Ed, then this is the book for you.

The letters are arranged chronologically but fall into a few recurring categories. He writes often to his agents and his publishers, both about money and about his works in progress. You see glimpses of how Ed works through these letters. He also wrote a large number of letters to various newspapers, some under pseudonyms. He wrote, of course, many letters to his friends, and these are surprisingly blunt. I sometimes marveled that he had any friends left. There are surprisingly few letters to his family, even though his oldest children lived some distance from him over the years covered in these letters. His family side does not come across at all well, except for pride in his very young children with fifth wife.

These short letters are, to varying degrees, pithy, insightful, iconoclastic and funny. They show some different sides of Edward Abbey but won't really surprise any fans of his other books.

[Three stars because the book has a pretty narrow audience; it's probably a four star book for hardcore Abbey fans.]
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Blilie on March 13, 2009
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I was a bit skeptical about the format of this book: reprinting many of Ed Abbey's prolific output of letters and notecards. I put off reading it for a long time. I may not have even bought it in the first place, except that I am a rabid [sic] Abbey fan and this promised a few more nibbles of his caustic wit and incisive puncturing of the pompous (or just the very large.) I'm very glad I did: This is a fun, big helping of more of Ed to enjoy -- with a slightly different and more intimate angle. (We did lose him WAY too soon, too young, too long gone; the world is a much poorer place without him. Tomorrow, it will be 20 years (!) since he passed.)

The book is a compilation of selected letters and postcards written by Abbey throughout his life. They deal with, mainly, literature, the environment, and some on his personal life or his friends' personal lives. It's a bit like a 30,000-foot autobiography told in correspondence.

The great thing about it, and in contrast to his journals (the published versions of which I own), is that each letter or note is like a condensed essay. It's not just rambling, like most of the journals, interesting as they are. These short pieces were written for specific audiences with specific purposes in mind; and this is what makes them special. Abbey brought his craft to bear on them, because they mattered to him. If you can use the metaphor of an oil-painting for his novels and say a wood-cut or lithograph for one of his essays and doodles for his journals, I would call these short pieces line drawings. Very enjoyable line drawings, well-executed and with plenty of vigor.

Highly recommended to any fan of Ed Abbey.
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