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The Fool's Progress: An Honest Novel Paperback – August 15, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Just before he died in 1989, Ed Abbey published what he called his "honest novel," one loosely based on his own life. Early in its opening pages, Abbey's alter ego, Lightcap, takes off from his nearly empty home (its contents just removed by a disgruntled spouse) in Tucson, Arizona--but not before shooting his refrigerator, a hated symbol of civilization. Lightcap makes a winding journey by car to his boyhood home in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania, calling on old friends along the road, visiting Indian reservations and out-of-the-way bars, and reminiscing about the triumphs and follies of his life. Readers would be mistaken to view this as pure autobiography, but The Fool's Progress nonetheless is an illuminating look into Abbey's time and his way of thinking, especially on matters of ecology and other social issues. It's also a picaresque tale humorously and artfully told, a book that Abbey himself rightly regarded as one of his best works of fiction. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

Abbey has won a devoted following with such caustic meditations as Desert Solitaire and anarchistic novels like The Brave Cowboy and The Monkey Wrench Gang. None of them, however, could adequately have prepared one for The Fool's Progress , an epic exploration of Abbey's passionate loves and hatreds, set forth in a wild, picaresque novel that reads at times like a combination of Thomas Wolfe and Jack Kerouac. Henry Lightcap is a woodsman's son from a remote corner of West Virginia who has dedicated his life to nature, music, literature and the pursuit of booze and lovely women. He works only as he has to, to afford the things he craveswhich do not include any of the material products of our culture except for the necessary vehicles for his constant wanderings. Like Abbey himself, Lightcap has spent much of his 53 years in the wilderness of the American West, as park ranger or fire watcher, and is at once passionately devoted to the land and full of rage at what late 20th century America has done to it. At the beginning of the book one of his several wives has walked out on him. Typically, Henry shoots the refrigerator, then gathers up his dying dog and begins a despairing odyssey across a lovely but ruined land from Tucson to the Appalachian family farm still run by his brother; penniless, he has nowhere else to go. Along the way we learn of his childhood, his father, his women, his Army experiencesand receive two huge narrative surprises, of a kind not easy to bring off in a book that is essentially a road novel with flashbacks. One involves the only real love of Henry's life, a tale told with aching tenderness and anguish; the other embraces his very existence. At his best Abbey writes with fierce eloquence of landscape and city, of stunted souls and drunken despair; he can be funny and poignant at once, and describes violent action with horrid vividness. At his worst he gets hyperbolic and full of bile, and a savage streak of male chauvinism surfaces. But Henry, and what he represents, seizes hold of the imagination, so that the reader is carried along as irrevocably as Henry's battered truck, lurching along interstates and fading country roads to a windup as absurdly moving as anything you have read in years. 50,000 first printing; author tour.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks (August 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805057919
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805057911
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,540 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

59 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Owen Hughes on May 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Edward Abbey died in March of 1989. In the latter part of 1988, he saw his last and perhaps most accomplished work brought to bed at his publishers in New York. The author of many highly controversial works of fiction and non-fiction, best known for his seemingly solitary stand against the ecological destruction of the western American deserts, Abbey's last book effectively completed a cycle. At the same time it was a very close foretelling of his own probable doom.
Abbey was an environmentalist from the beginning. In the East of his youth, he saw strip mines close in on his father's mountain acres. Out West, he witnessed the early preparations being made to dam the Colorado and its tributaries. He rafted down Glen Canyon and saw the hidden valleys filled with a beauty that was soon after to be engulfed. He smelt out the tricky political deals being woven by senators and landowners in the forgotten tracts of the butte country and did his best to expose them. Against all of the attempts to tame this corner of the American wilderness, Abbey railed.
In books ranging from "Desert Solitaire" (1967), a journal of a season in the desert, to "The Monkey Wrench Gang" (1975), an explosive novel of saboteurs versus dambuilders, Abbey argues his points in favour of preserving the canyon country. Having been there "before" and "after," his voice has a compelling authority. To read his account of Glen Canyon before the dam is to be filled with regret at the later spoliation.
In "The Fool's Progress," Abbey gives us something of a summing up of his own life. The book is like a reverse history of Kerouac's "On the Road.
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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Andrew List on March 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
Being an avid reader, I've read all of the "great works" -- from Socrates and Plato to Steinbeck and Hemingway -- and this is the best fiction/philosophy that I've ever read. Abbey's discriptions of his travels and laments are first class -- funny, honest, and down-right on the mark. When I met Henry Lightcap in chapter one, I wanted to know who he is and how he became to be. At the end, I cried for a man that I came to know and love. Although I love and respect many of the great works of the west, this is the most incredible novel I have ever read. I re-read this book at least once a year -- it's a wonderful journey, never a chore. If I could recommend one book out of the multitudes I've read, this would be the one. And the only.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By "kcshankd" on November 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
Life. Death. Love. War. The life-long struggle away from what you are towards what you might be, if only..., or the struggle back to what you were. Read this. Read the rest of the reviews below. Then shell out twelve bucks and buy this book. When it arrives at your door, dedicate a few hours in an out-of-the-way place. Keep those that you love handy. Keep your spirits up, life is one kick in the groin after another and this tome is no different. It's a long, hard race kids. No one wins or loses, we simply end up carrying our stinking dying dogs the last few miles home.
I sent this book to my mom when she asked me why I thought the way I did. A few months later I got the best letter of my life.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. D. Whitworth on September 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
Yeah thats right Profound...My god ..when I read a Fools Progress I was blown away. The kind of book that makes you truly glad to be alive. You know the kind where you get goose bumps and then go outside to stare at the stars and ruminate on the human condition. I had that feeling with very few books Maybe Jack London's "Call of the Wild" or Ayn Rands "The Fountainhead" both read when I was young .. I never thought I'd feel that way about a book again but I had it in middle age....with this one. One of the top 3 or 4 books Ive read period. Maybe more than any book (Including somthing by Thoreau) this book reminds you what it means to lead a simple life....and preferably one outdoors. I spent 24 years in the military and this book reminded of the joy of going home again after being off the path. I cried it was so moving. Can't say enough .. a truly truly great book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dudley Ristow on October 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
In my search for another "Confederacy of Dunces" genre I came across this book and was enticed by the accolades heaped upon it by amazon.com reviewers; one who promised me a laugh out funny and cry your eyes out sad reading experience. (What more can one possibly ask of any book?) All of the accolades are spot on - get pass the original impression that the protagonist is an insufferable jerk, he really is not, he is just a man who lived life on his terms and paid whatever price he had to pay for doing so. On his 3500 mile journey home to his roots in the Appalachian foothills he lays bare this life so don't hesitate to go with him because you will have truly a wonderful time; he will take you to the mountain tops and he will show you the valleys and on the home straight cheer him on, like I did, with a well-deserved tear. Thanks Edward Abbey and R.I.P.!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 11, 1997
Format: Paperback
Not everyone agrees with Abbey's politics, but he can write an incredible story. Never again will you see the imagery that Abbey uses.

This is one of his later books about the story of him traveling home. He was born in the East and left as soon as possible to go West. Once he got there, he had crazy experiences and an all around wacky life. Well, this book opens up some of the "New Thoreau's" experiences.

This book is a great start for any possible Abbey fan. His politics are mellowed out, and his story-telling shines. The man writes an incredible story, and he has many incredible stories to tell. _The Fool's Progress: an Hones Novel_ is just that. BUY THIS BOOK
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