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The Monkey Wrench Gang (P.S.) Paperback – December 12, 2006

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Editorial Reviews Review

Ed Abbey called The Monkey Wrench Gang, his 1975 novel, a "comic extravaganza." Some readers have remarked that the book is more a comic book than a real novel, and it's true that reading this incendiary call to protect the American wilderness requires more than a little of the old willing suspension of disbelief. The story centers on Vietnam veteran George Washington Hayduke III, who returns to the desert to find his beloved canyons and rivers threatened by industrial development. On a rafting trip down the Colorado River, Hayduke joins forces with feminist saboteur Bonnie Abbzug, wilderness guide Seldom Seen Smith, and billboard torcher Doc Sarvis, M.D., and together they wander off to wage war on the big yellow machines, on dam builders and road builders and strip miners. As they do, his characters voice Abbey's concerns about wilderness preservation ("Hell of a place to lose a cow," Smith thinks to himself while roaming through the canyonlands of southern Utah. "Hell of a place to lose your heart. Hell of a place... to lose. Period"). Moving from one improbable situation to the next, packing more adventure into the space of a few weeks than most real people do in a lifetime, the motley gang puts fear into the hearts of their enemies, laughing all the while. It's comic, yes, and required reading for anyone who has come to love the desert. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Mixes comedy and chaos with enough chase sequences to leave you hungering for more." - --San Francisco Chronicle

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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (December 12, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061129763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061129766
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (211 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,364 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

116 of 124 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on December 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
Edward Abbey (1927-1989) is a touchstone for anyone involved in the radical environmental movement. Abbey, who looks like the product of a union between William James and John Muir, churned out numerous books and essays concerning the American Southwest and its wondrous natural beauty. His best known work is this novel, "The Monkey Wrench Gang," a fictional tale about four nature lovers who decide to wage relentless war against America's manic desire to spread the industrial system into every corner of the country. Abbey apparently based some of the characters in the book on real people he knew during his life in the boonies. It is important to remember this while you read the book because it will scare the heck out of you that people like this actually exist.
Abbey does not waste much time introducing the reader to his main characters. There is Seldom Seen Smith, a jack Mormon and river rafter who rambles around the countryside when he's not visiting his three wives. Seldom Seen quickly hooks up with Bonnie Abbzug, a Brooklyn born beauty with a predilection for older men and geodesic domes. Abbzug's flame of the moment is Doc Sarvis, an aging surgeon with a propensity for spouting off about nature and history when he's not operating on a patient. Finally, there is the hero of the story, George Washington Hayduke, a Vietnam vet who returns to his home only to discover bulldozers raping his beloved country. When the four meet up on a river-rafting excursion, Doc throws his checkbook into the ring so the four can go on an environmental rampage of astonishing proportions. No bulldozer, bridge, or member of the area's Search and Rescue team (run by the nefarious Bishop Love) is safe from the monkeywrenching activities of these four ecoterrorists.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Luis P. Fernandez on July 19, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the first fiction by Abbey that I've read. That it almost reads like a true story largely stems from the keen sense and accurate knowledge of Colorado Plateau geography that Abbey had. His description of the gnarled and surreal landscape---and the interplay of light, sky, and rock---especially of the Canyonlands area of Utah, is so vivid that it harks back to his compulsively readable nonfiction work in "Abbey's Road", "Down the River", "One Life at a Time, Please", and the like. Readers who fancy this setting will benefit from the author's expert familiarity with the Southwest.
I couldn't help but notice that there is a little (or maybe much) of Abbey in every male character of the book: Doc Sarvis' intellectual ruminations and academic bent, Seldom Smith's knowledge of almost every nook and cranny of the canyonlands and the Four Corners area, and George Hayduke's unfettered and no-holds-barred love for the desert and penchant for irreverence, the ultimate desert rat and indestructible desert Rambo. Bonnie Abzzug personifies people, myself included, who love the desert yet do not seem to be sure exactly what to do to stop its corruption, exploitation, and destruction.
A lot of non-PC thoughts, ideas, and convictions nothwithstanding, the book leaves me wondering how much more of the desert can be paved, accessed, bridged, and defaced before we realize it's too late. The characters represent the extreme end of those who feel that "enough is enough".
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Ryan McNabb on May 21, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
...which many can't do. Abbey is a fiercely skillful writer who can punch you right in the mouth with words when he wants to. This is a very unconventional novel, with writing and characterization that border on the surreal, but Abbey knows his craft. The Dream Garden Press edition has a chapter he was forced to leave out of the trade edition, and it borders on the nightmarish. He is unflinching in his criticisms and unyielding in his devotions, and The Monkey Wrench Gang is a wonderful novel. I reread it every couple of years and enjoy it every time. It's quite possible that you will hate this book and what it stands for, as well as the rest of Abbey's writings. It's also quite possible that that was Abbey's intention from the very start. Ed Abbey doesn't pander or beg. He lays it on the line and dares you to come along for the ride. And Monkey Wrench is one great ride. No, it isn't Proust. Yes, Mormons and Indians and most women may be offended. That's tough. It isn't for everyone, and thank God for that.
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Format: Paperback
The name Edward Abbey is a foul couple of words for some, and is followed by foul language off the tongue of the same people. But, it shouldn't...both for his great body writings and for his fierce appreciation for everything that makes the American West great. "The Monkey Wrench Gang" and its sequel "Hayduke Lives" are classic American Literature as well as important social commentary on who we are and what should matter to us as a society and a country. (This review is for both books so might be a bit longer than usual.)

Yes, Abbey was an environmentalist; but, a he was also flawed just as we all are in this area - when he was younger on his first visit to the Grand Canyon, he rolled a tire over the edge because he could. He already appreciated the American West, but the human side of him did it anyway. Yes, Abbey was a curmudgeon; but, it worked - he got the attention of everyone, on both sides of any issue.

With "The Monkey Wrench Gang", Abbey spun a fantastic tale of a hodgepodge band of characters that were bound by a love for the west, and distaste for anything that they saw as ruining it. Bonnie Abbzug, the exile from the east who couldn't stand cheap talk and always wanted action; she found a place in the canyons of the Southwest where one could hear her own thoughts - unlike the canyons of New York that she fled. Doc Sarvis, M.D., a doctor with a passion for his hobby - the burning of any billboard that ruined everyone's view of the landscape (which were pretty much all of them). Seldom Seen Smith, a few wives, a Colorado River Boatman, and a few steps ahead of the Bishop...'nuff said.

And then there is George Washington Hayduke III...
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