The Fool's Progress
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The Fool's Progress

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  1,965 ratings  ·  177 reviews
When his third wife abandons him in Tucson, boozing, misanthropic anarchist Henry Holyoak Lightcap shoots his refrigerator and sets off in a battered pick-up truck for his ancestral home in West Virginia. Accompanied only by his dying dog and his memories, the irascible warhorse (a stand-in for the "real" Abbey) begins a bizarre cross-country odyssey--determined to make pe...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published August 15th 1998 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1988)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Matt
Recently, a group of my guy friends decided to form a book club. One reason: all our wives were already in one, and we felt the need to exercise our own intellects. The real reason: the NFL is over for the year, and we needed an excuse to drink beer on Sunday. (An excuse other than “it’s Sunday!”).

In the abstract, I should love being part of a book club. I like reading. I like talking about what I’ve read. I like to drink. It seems a no-brainer. However – and this a big “however” – I hate being...more
Harper
Edward Abbey is a dirty old man. Backwoods, racist, sexist, libertarian, dirty old man. I love him. I would proudly have his babies.

This may be the best summary of this book ever.

Really it's beautiful. Makes me homesick for the desert and the kind of rugged individualism and anti authoritarianism that Abbey represents so well. Makes me realize that coming home is a powerfully healing thing to do.
Lucy
Dec 04, 2007 Lucy rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: personal fans of Edward Abbey

Apparently, Edward Abbey is an environmentalist whose books have been known to inspire radicals but also open up frank discussions about the treatment and protection of the western landscape. All right. That's one point of view. I can respect that.

But, this was not the book to start with. I don't know if he's a great author or not, but, supposedly, this book is autobiographical and I can tell you, if it is (he's dead...so it's all speculative anyway) that I don't like him. Completely self-indulg...more
Michael Thoeresz
This is one of the funniest books I've read in a long time.

"Like him I'll get shitfaced fallingdown snotflying toilet-hugging drunk. Reality management."

"And why? What's my problem? Well, I have this queer thing about pretty girls: I like them. And this weird thing about steady jobs: I dont like them. I dont believe in doing work I dont want to do in order to live the way I dont want to live."

"The word itself--skirt--excites im instantly. There is something about that airy garmet, he feels, that...more
Jonathon
Though hes racist, an idiot, and shitty towards women, some of the stuff he says is pretty damn funny and quite honest (it is an honest novel)! I enjoy his philosophical references also and his general outlook on life and political views. I disagree with a lot of his ignorant, arrogant, bigotry rants; Im not sure his point in using derogatory terms. It didnt come off as ironic or meaningful, just blatant racism. Some how he reminds sometimes of the rapist from deliverance or the creep at the loc...more
Charlie
I love Abbey because he is tough nut to crack, and a hard drink to swallow. He can be downright offensive, but it's important to see his distaste is not limited to women and Mexican's but leveled fully against all participants in society not excluding his autobiographical character Henry H. Lightcap.

The autobiographical nature of this novel helped me untangle a bit of the contradictory, larger-than-life image Abbey has here in the west. Reading it after Loeffler's biography was helpful.

I don't...more
Nicole
Abbey hits all of his strengths over the course of this novel--waxing poetic about pristine landscapes, waxing poetic about women, railing against institutions and commercialism...and it's all wrapped into a classic epic journey format, reverse-Kerouac style.

Henry Lightcap is sarcastic and cantankerous and, in all honesty, comes across as an alcoholic misogynistic asshole, at least in the beginning of the book (when we first meet him he's shooting his refrigerator because his third wife left him...more
Ryk
This is not a review. Not yet.

What I remember at the time is that this book scared the crap out of me, even as I enjoyed it. Because it showed me how out-of-sync I was with myself, my life, my sham first marriage- everything.

I'm picking it up to re-read, as my life needs the shake-up this book delivered the first time, and after 13 years, it will be a different book because I'm a different person.

Christine Boyer
Apr 26, 2014 Christine Boyer rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Philosophers, meaning of life, lovers of sarcasm & dry wit, nature
Wow! A funny, emotional, thoughtful, exciting, romantic, gritty, real journey of one man's life. I had never heard of Edward Abbey until a friend recommended this book. I guess he was a bit on the extremist "radical" side - pro nature/anti industrialism type who had somewhat of a cult following in the 70's & 80's. So I wasn't sure if I would like this novel. It is now on my list as one of my all time favorites.

The writing is excellent, with so many memorable lines. Also, good weaving of the...more
Travis
I really enjoy Edward Abbey. He is an iconoclast. A real fire-breathing, truth-speaking, selfish, loving human. He takes the reader through all the emotions. This is a great book but not for the weak.
Brian
Semi-autobiographical. Entirely hysterical and heartbreaking all at once...it brings to life the old saying, 'Everywhere i go, there i am'. This is my favorite book of all time.
Zoe
I was stuck for two days on Amtrak with this book and I got to page 153. The moment I stepped off the train I would have thrown it into the trash, except it was a library book.
Wendy
To be honest, I was concerned while reading the opening scenes and almost put the book down: Henry Lightcap treats his current wife miserably. when she decides to leave him for a computer engineer, he is so distraught that he takes out a .22 and shoots the refrigerator (the culmination, as it turns out, of his hatred for technology and "modern civilization". Oh no, I thought, a self-absorbed misogynist tells his sufferings. For the most part, I was wrong (there is plenty of suffering). This was...more
Valerie
I really enjoyed this book. It took me a long time to read it all the way through though; in classic Edward Abbey style, it is wordy with some long monologues and rants, but highly entertaining so long as you like the character. I'd say that only people who really loved Monkey Wrench Gang would enjoy this book, because that will help in understanding the main character and the writing style.

Edward Abbey said that the book was loosely based on his life. It has a great premise - a man whose third...more
Owen
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...more
Robert Vander
I have been reading Edward Abbey since my college days. This could be the fourth time I have read this novel, I suppose I will read it again. It has never failed to serve me well.

I agree with those who suggest starting with Desert Solitaire or some of his early works. His various collected essays are quite fine. Edward Abbey was a difficult character with a deeply thought out understanding of life. He spoke what was on his mind, warts and all......

If you are a reader likely to be offended, upse...more
Zigmund
This book brought tears to my eyes. This book gave me a glimpse into the surreal reality of the Rio Grande area. My subconsoious just took the wheel of my car one hot summer and I drove until I wound up at a cold daybreak at the foot of the Eastern Slope of the Carson National Forest. Having entered darkness with Pike's Peak in the distance, I was more than happy to find myself awake in my trusty pavement dragon at the foot of the most beautiful mountain meadows, brooks, and glades I had ever fo...more
Erica
Long an Edward Abbey fan, I'd been excited to read this for a while. It took some looking. Never seen in the used department, or the new of HBS, I resorted to the BPL, who's single paperback copy had to be shipped from some far flung branch.

The first 50 or so pages were a bit rough - this is a decidedly male perspective - I felt familiarly annoyed with the blatant sexism. But waited it out, and was glad I did. The narrator, in whatever he says or does is honest. I might argue in real life, but...more
Eugene
Settling into this book was tough for me. The main character, Henry Lightcap, presents as a self-indulgent anarchist crank, gun-toting and sexist and not very likable. His wife packs him in, leaving him broke. He shoots his fridge full of holes, and along with his sick dog (and in his sick truck), starts on a road-trip east from Arizona to Stump Creek, West Virginia to see his brother and his mother and the farm on which he grew up. Along the way, Henry washes down opiates with beer (while drivi...more
carolime
it is quite unfortunate that i read (most of) this book. i found edward abbey's name scrawled on a foldy post-it note from the move, and concluded he must be someone i was interested in reading, i jumped headlong into this novel- a stretch of murk that seems inescapable.

the book is a chronicle of the life of the protagonist, a womanizer who grew up in appalachia and fell in love with the wide spaces of the west. we begin with him in his present-day home in tucson, and follow him as he travels ba...more
Curlita
Jan 07, 2008 Curlita rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who love the desert, anarchists, rednecks
Aging redneck, anarchist, individualist, and desert rat Henry Lightcap leaves his home in Tucson, AZ to travel back home to the hills of West Virginia when his third wife leaves him. On the way he reminisces about the life he has lead and waxes philosophical and poetic about life in the 20th Century. Henry hates "progress," but loves women, the desert, guns, and good, American-made trucks. This book is funny, poetic, profane, and moving. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll want to buy your own copy...more
Chris
A middle-aged man's young wife leaves him for a college professor. With a glimpse at his own mortality, he piles his dying dog into his pick-up and embarks on a cross-country drive to visit his older brother in their Appalachian home. While he chronicles his trip, he visits old friends and reminisces on his young life.

"The Fool's Progress" alternates between chapters about the road trip and chapters about the writer's life leading up to the trip.

During the first half of the book, the chapters a...more
David
As John Bunyan tells of a Christ-guided journey through the trials, troubles, detours and diversions of life in "Pilgrim's Progress," so Edward Abbey tells the tale of a self-centered fool's journey through the trials, troubles, detours, and diversions of life.

I liked the way Abbey told the story - one chapter of Henry Lightcap's current predicament followed by one chapter of his past. This continued until the present and the past joined in the last two chapters. What I didn't like about the boo...more
Mars Weston
A great book by Edward Abbey. If you can't accept his wit, cynicism, radical views (even for radicals), and what people refer to as a misogynist attitude, you will not enjoy the book. It's strange. Even with the sometimes blatant derogatory remarks of race, gender, and anything else in the politically correct world, there is a certain allure to his writing. A great charm. No doubt he is a great writer, but for me it extends beyond that. Might have something to do with his scathing animosity towa...more
jeremy
edward abbey may be america's most underappreciated writer. he is well-deserving of mention amongst our country's literary titans (whitman, emerson, thoreau, twain), and, thematically speaking, his works were as prescient.

short of abbey's journals (confessions of a barbarian) or his letters (postcards from ed), the fool's progess may be the most candid glimpse into his life. subtitled "an honest novel," this is still a work of fiction, but many of the events depicted mirrored abbey's own real-li...more
Windy
The timing was perfect when I read the book, as I had just completed student teaching and my undergraduate degree, left Tucson, and moved back to a town I had promised I'd never return to. The book begins with the narrator (modeled strongly after Abbey himself) grieving over the fact that his wife has left him. He swerves through Tucson traffic (it's actually a hilarious, and realistic, scene) and decides to head back to his Appalachian family. He takes his old, decrepit dog with him, and he him...more
Kevin Spicer
A catalog of misadventures and misdemeanors of the robustly freewheeling Henry Lightcap, whose life follows suspiciously close to that of the authors. Also, a catalog of all the ways America has gone horribly wrong. Few writers can make such bitter and spiteful indictments of modernity as entertaining as Edward Abbey; I could feel the pleasure with which he articulated his hostility. As someone who loves the west and has romanticized the bravery and beauty of the Louis and Clark expedition to to...more
Daniel
This is the best book I've read all year. Warning, if you are prone to wanderlust, this book is dangerous.

Although touted as a novel, from what I understand, this title was largely autobiographical. I rarely laugh aloud while reading, but Abbey had me laughing and snickering on a regular basis. He did an amazing job painting a vivid image of several characters and violently tugged at my heartstrings on more than one occasion. The main character, an underdog throughout the story, is polarizing, t...more
Jacob Alan
Classic Ed Abbey. He has you laughing out loud with his characters antics (whom you start to correlate with his own), and saddened by the hardships. Its an adventure from when he leaves Arizona, to when he arrives home in West Virginia. A solid finish.
Mike Sanderson
Aug 03, 2008 Mike Sanderson rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: My brother
Recommended to Mike by: a hippie friend in college
I read this book several years ago and remember really liked it. So I started reading it again and I forgot how enjoyable Abby is to read.

Living on wit, sarcasm and a lot of luck, the central character, a dying Henry Lighthead (a.k.a Edward Abby?) spins a tale of his migration from Tuscon Arizona [where he has spent the past 20 odd years] back to his native home of West Virginia, accompanied by his dying dog Solstice.

Throughout the journey he recounts lost relationships, careers, marriages, lov...more
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Abbey attended college in New Mexico, and then worked as a park ranger and fire lookout for the National Park Service in the Southwest. It was during this time that he developed the relationship with the area's environment that influenced his writing. During his service, he was in close proximity to the ruins of ancient Native American cultures and saw the expansion and destruction of modern civil...more
More about Edward Abbey...
Desert Solitaire The Monkey Wrench Gang Hayduke Lives! The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West Down the River

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