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Now published in a special edition to celebrate its 50th Anniversary, this classic seems remarkably prescient, and has lost none of its power. In this shimmering masterpiece of American nature writing, Edward Abbey ventures alone into the canyonlands of Moab, Utah, to work as a seasonal ranger for the United States National Park Service.
Living out of a trailer, Abbey captures in rapt, poetic prose the landscape of the desert; a world of terracotta earth, empty skies, arching rock formations, cliffrose, juniper, pinyon pine and sand sage. His summers become spirit quests, taking him in search of wild horses and Ancient Puebloan petroglyphs, up mountains and across tribal lands, and down the Glen Canyon by river. He experiences both sides of his new home; its incredible beauty and its promise of liberation, but also its isolating, cruel side, at one point discovering a dead tourist at an isolated area of the Grand Canyon.
In his own irascible style, Abbey uses his time in the desert to meditate on the tension between nature and civilisation, and outlines a personal philosophy that would come to heavily influence the environmentalist movement.
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 Tucson, Arizona, in 1989.
"His masterpiece. Despite its stated purpose as a eulogy to a lost world, it seems hardly to have aged at all. Part of the book's staying power resides in the synthesis Abbey created between the American desert – the red-rock canyons, "Abbey's country" – and the beautiful, hard-chiselled prose, as rough and gorgeous as the land itself, that he used to celebrate its harshness and mystery. None have matched his style"
"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"
– New York Times
"An American masterpiece [...] part memoir, part meditation on nature, part crusty and slightly mad cultural commentary"
– New Yorker
"An uncommonly beautiful love letter to solitude and the spiritual rewards of getting lost. A miraculously beautiful book"
– Brain Pickings
"Edward Abbey is the Thoreau of the American West"
– Washington Post
"Abbey's voice, like that of Thomas Paine in Common Sense, never fades away [...] President Trump, please read Desert Solitaire"
– Douglas Brinkley, New York Times