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The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey
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Nov 02, 2009

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Read in November, 2009

Abbey, Edward. THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG. (1975). ***. This was very much a book of its times, when concerns for ecology and preservation of our natural environment was becoming of prime importance to a growing number of people in our country. As such, the novel struck home with all of these newly inspired and dedicated people, especially the younger people that were attracted to these causes. It reads today as a dated manifesto for forcifully reclaiming our natural surroundings – or at least preserving it – by more or less using ecoterrorist tactics. Although certainly not advocating the use of terrorism to stem the tide of the ruination of our natural landscape, it had a great appeal to people who could see no other way to halt the progress of a greater industrial ravaging of our natural resources. The story is set in the Southwest, and involves four people who are subsequently known as “The Monkey Wrench Gang:” Bonnie Abbzug – no relation to the politician – an exile from the Bronx, an idealist and assistant to. Doc Sarvis, M.D., F.A.C.B., a wild (mad?) conservative and libertarian whose initial hobby was the destruction of roadside billboards; Seldom Seen Smith, a lapsed Mormon (although he practised polygamy and had three wives) who ran a wilderness river rafting operation and bemoaned the fact that his native town of Hite, UT, was under water because of the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, and George Washington Hayduke, an ex-Green Beret, ex-Viet Cong Medic, who was dismayed at the changes in his native land upon his discharge from the service. All of these players meet on one of Smith’s river rafting expeditions and find out that they all have the same issue in common: “They’re destroying our land. How do we stop it?” Plans are laid and raid after raid is carried out against the offending developers whose purposes are always cast in the light of industrial despoilers. New strip mines, new roads, new bridges, new anything – all are targets of this gang. At the time of publication, this kind of book was novel – at least when set in the present day America – and it became an immediate and long-term best seller. I think its time has past.

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