Abeer Hoque's Reviews > Desert Solitaire

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
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Dec 06, 08

bookshelves: i-recommend
Read in December, 2008

If I had more courage, "Desert Solitaire" would change my life. If I were to do what I felt, I would give up everything else, go outside and stay there. But because I'm too beholden, too afraid, too old? I am merely and simply renewed in my conviction that there are a million different ways to be, and a billion more ways to see.

Edward Abbey's ode (or elegy as he calls it) to the desert, specifically Arches in Moab, the canyonlands of Utah, is like they say (they, in this case, is the New Yorker), an American masterpiece. I didn't find the book rude or angry or rough (like some other reviewers did). Rather it's dead on, perfectly sincere, heartbreakingly beautiful. I visited Moab and Arches years 35 years after he wrote this book, 8 years ago, and true to form, I was one of the hoards of car-bound tourists he prophesied would take over the park. As spectacular as that experience was, after reading this book, I'd give it back so Arches might remain as he saw it in the 50's and 60's.

I had only one tiny caveat on page 241 (and throughout that chapter), where he unfavourably compares the ocean and the mountain to the desert. Because his (pretty fucking awe inspiring) education is western bound, he doesn't know about or chooses to dismiss the mountain people in Asia, or the river and sea dwellers of the East, and so their symbiotic lives with nature and the outdoors don't figure in his calculations. Not that he needed to even bring those spaces down to build up his case for the land of sand and sky. Not at all. Every inch of the rest of the 268 pages is pure beauty.

Maybe we've destroyed most of what's good and glorious on earth. But we have this book. And maybe when you read it (and you must), you will be braver than I, and will go outside and not come back.
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