I only read through the beginning. I don't consider myself hostile to either Christian apology or the idea of doing it by loose autobiographical means...moreI only read through the beginning. I don't consider myself hostile to either Christian apology or the idea of doing it by loose autobiographical means but found the train of thought superficial and absurd.(less)
I found this book on my father's shelf right before taking our trip out to Utah. I picked it up thinking it was a western and just intended to see wha...moreI found this book on my father's shelf right before taking our trip out to Utah. I picked it up thinking it was a western and just intended to see what was interesting enough about it that my dad had a copy. Then I found out that it was about an area of Utah that overlapped with where we were about to go. I started to read a chapter and was hooked so I threw it into the truck to read during the long drive out there.
Basically, Abbey has taken a seasonal job as a ranger at Arches National Park in SE Utah, and writes about his experiences and thoughts. There is a lot of stuff about the role of the wilderness and it's relationship to civilization. He also struggles between the importance of having the parks there for people and the inevitable development of the areas that are heavily visited. Also interesting is his struggle to maintain the "two worlds" philosophy. He contrasts himself with Thoreau at one point by insisting that he is seeking to exist in both civilization and wilderness simultaneously rather than at separate times. I found everything in the book to be thought provoking and double edged. There are no simple minded views on the matters considered. The book is very interesting and despite the fact that there is some ranting in it does not come across as a lecture at all. Instead you get the feeling that Abbey is making sense of his own experience and his own strong opinions.
On the other hand I have to admit that though I liked his style, and found him interesting and fun to read, much of the enjoyment of this particular work came from the fact that it really is very close to where I was going as I read it. He mentioned a number of the places where we went although they are on the periphery of the exact territory where he was centered.
This book has certainly whetted my appetite to read more of his stuff particularly "the Monkey Wrench Gang".(less)
I read an excerpt from this in a class and have wanted to come back to it since then. The book is somewhat different than I expected it to be. I thoug...moreI read an excerpt from this in a class and have wanted to come back to it since then. The book is somewhat different than I expected it to be. I thought it would be more of a philosophico-poetic treatise on the nature of being black in America. It actually is a series of linked essays. These range from straight-forward historical accounts such as the first chapter detailing the Freedmen's Bureau in post civil war society, to personal reminiscences and anecdotes. These various approaches work together and reinforce the points he makes from different approaches.
While in some ways the considerations are dated (I don't mean this as criticism. The book was clearly intended to address the issues of its day.) it's the style of the writing that makes it eminently readable today. His writing is very clear, but in a languid and relaxed way that isn't afraid to follow the contours of his own thought. A great deal of passion is expressed but always reined and held in balance with a faith in reason and human nature. His writing reminds me at times of Emerson's and I can't say whether that was concious imitation, natural influence, or just sympathy of character. Regardless this style is very engaging, and allows him to speak in a way that often enough transcends the particulars of what he is saying and lifts up to a philosophical plane. His thoughts on the nature of the university I thought were particularly significant given the way that university life in America is increasingly commercialized and increasingly a means to workplace success rather than devoted to the love of learning itself which seems to be an idea that is almost sneered at even in the humanities.
On the whole I was educated in a sophisticated way about a period and area of this countries history that I hadn't know much about.(less)