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The Abstract Wild Paperback – September 1, 1996

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Editorial Reviews Review

Much contemporary environmental literature names as enemies of the wild corporate agriculture, logging, mining, and ranching. For mountain guide/philosopher Jack Turner, these will not do. He dislikes even more the abstractions that divorce us from the natural world, which cause us to create pseudo-wild locales like Yellowstone National Park and Grand Canyon, places that resemble nothing so much as Disneyland. Wilderness advocates who do not make themselves at home in the wild, he believes, cannot hope to understand the object of their desires, for only from that "complete immersion in place over time" can there arise the "wisdom that cannot emerge from tourism in a relic wilderness." This sometimes blistering, provocative book is an eco-radical manifesto of a kind, and every reader concerned with wilderness issues should pay attention to it.

From Publishers Weekly

These eight provocative essays turn on a common theme: how wildness (once but no longer the essence of wilderness) has been mediated, micromanaged and abstracted nearly out of existence. The essays include rants against the status quo, memoirs of wild places and a tribute to Doug Peacock, who dared to live among grizzlies. Turner, a former academic who's now a mountain guide in the Grand Tetons, infuses his writing with a restless anger, best felt when read fast. At times, he exhibits a penchant for hyperbole ("Yosemite Valley is more like Coney Island than a wilderness"), and his tone can run a bit high-handed, as when he loftily compares his mountaineering to the predilections of pelicans. He is most persuasive when relying on the language of experience: coming upon a wall of prehistoric pictographs in a Utah canyon, tracking a mountain lion in Wyoming, listening to the clacking of soaring white pelicans. One essay, "Economic Nature," starkly reveals both Turner the pedant, excoriating the language of economics that controls the way we see the world, and Turner the meditative poet ("Dig in someplace.... Allow the spirits of your chosen place to speak through you. Say their names."). Both are persuasive. In the end, Turner has produced a manifesto that defends the wild by passionately restoring its good Thoreauvian name.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: University of Arizona Press; Fourth Edition edition (September 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816516995
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816516995
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 17, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I got this book when searching for something for my biodiversity class to read that would hook them to the subject and move them the way "Sand County Almanac" did me back in my college days. Wasn't able to read it at the time, but I picked it up this fall, thought I would read an essay at a time before bed, like I usually do with essay books. Sometime in the wee hours I realized that I had to stop reading or I would head out into the dark night and wander until I found the wilderness again. Few modern writers, or writers of any age, have so clearly and eloquently expressed what it means to love the wild, what we are about to loose, and truly why we are loosing it despite efforts to the contrary. Turner's solution is one I believe in, but rarely find seriously advocated, probably because it would work. Frankly, if you haven't gone wild, you may not "get" this book. If you want to really know what the wild is about though, read this book and if you like the sound of things, go seek it out. If you are wild, this will be one of the few books on the topic you can stand to read these days. I haven't been so enlightened since I read "The Practice of the Wild" by Gary Snyder. Five stars means a great book. Some books are beyond that, this is one for the ages.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Wildness VINE VOICE on July 23, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jack Turner's "Abstract Wild" is a book that runs past most Nature or Environmental writings at full bore, surpassing the standard let's save some of it for the future motto. A former professor of Philosophy, Turner abandoned his post to concentrate on his passion... climbing, and is now a guide in Wyoming. He was prodded into writing this book as more and more people he knew realized the importance of his message.

Turner dives to the heart of the matter when it comes to the Wild, the Environment, Preservation, Conservation, etc. We as a society have become disconnected with the world at large and the Wildness at its core. This Wildness has become an Abstract concept for for most of us.

This book and a few other core titles (i.e. Abbey's "Desert Solitaire" and "The Monkey Wrench Gang" and various works by the likes of Rick Bass, Barry Lopez and Bill McKibben) would make for a very important class in the Preservation of Wildness that all students should be encouraged if not required to take.


A Guide to my Rating System:

1 star = The wood pulp would have been better utilized as toilet paper.
2 stars = Don't bother, clean your bathroom instead.
3 stars = Wasn't a waste of time, but it was time wasted.
4 stars = Good book, but not life altering.
5 stars = This book changed my world in at least some small way.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Vanessa Schulz on June 25, 1999
Format: Paperback
An outstanding book that will have special relevance to anyone who has had an experience in the wild that brings an awakening of spirit. Exactly the kind of experience not attainable at Disney World, which is the author's point. He has remarkable answers to questions that trouble any environmentally-concerned person. Questions raised in the exceptional book "Wild Echoes" by Charles Bergman, are answered in the Abstract Wild. Anyone who has been put down for having strong views about man's destructive nature will find solace in this book. Turner knows it is OK to rant for wilderness, and only if we all rant together can we possibly make a difference.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kendrick E. Neubecker on February 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book hits the nail on the head regarding what we think we believe and with how we really live and work in this world. Chapter 2, "the Abstract Wild: a Rant" and chapter 4, "Economic Nature" are particularly valuable, but then so is the rest. This is a book that makes the reader face the reality of our world and what we are making of it on no uncertian terms. If you think that we can reconcile the comfort of modern life with the real world you need to read this book. The world we are loosing is very different from the "abstract wild" we believe we are "saving". The book makes the strongest justification and argument for the spiritual reality of the world over the "economic reality" that we seem to think we must compromise with.

The "Abstract Wild" belongs in every hand that hold such writings as Thoreau, Leopold and Abbey important. Much like Thoreau, it holds up a mirror that all of us, including the "mainstream" environmentalists should look on. It reveals an image that is difficult to rationalize away, showing some hard truths that we all must heed if we wish to truely change, both individually and as a culture. The "Wildness" that is the salvation of the world is more than a slogan, a momentary protest or a cause. It's Reality in the true meaning of the word.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John Passacantando on July 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Jack Turner's "Abstract Wild" is a collection of essays, screeds really, the result of taking a lifelong climbing bum, guide really, a wacked out college philosophy professor, a naturalist, and a Buddhist of good intention until the duck pate or a plate of steamed shrimp lands in front of him, and rolling all these people into one cranky mountain poet living under the guise of an Exum Mountain guide -- the premiere climbing guides of the Tetons.
The essays, some personal and some philosophical, one that is better on economics that any essay by any economist I have ever read, define what wildness truly is and what abolitionism in the name of the environment is all about. Not humorless zero tolerance, but rather, how one takes a powerful ecological conscience and translates that into how we live.
He might be our century's John Muir, although that might involve a book tour which would involve Turner leaving his little cabin in the woods and dealing with airports and cabs and subways. Probably not. So meet him through his book. It is worth it. Turner is like a melding of Ed Abbey and Gary Snyder, fierce, provacative and playful, always trying to set you off.
In fact, when I met him eight years ago, the last time he was in Washington, DC, he told my wife and me, "Get out of this town. You are going to lose your souls." My wife wanted to hit him with a pot, having just made us all a wonderful dinner after putting in a 12 hour day in an environmental career." I laughed, thinking of Thoreau writing that he had never learned anything of value from his elders -- a shot directed at one of the great mentors of all time -- Ralph Waldo Emerson.
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