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The Fool's Progress

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  3,215 ratings  ·  251 reviews
The Fool's Progress, the "fat masterpiece" as Edward Abbey labeled it, is his most important piece of writing: it reveals the complete Ed Abbey, from the green grass of his memory as a child in Appalachia to his approaching death in Tuscon at age sixty two.

When his third wife abandons him in Tucson, boozing, misanthropic anarchist Henry Holyoak Lightcap shoots his refrige
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Paperback, 528 pages
Published August 15th 1998 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1988)
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Average rating 4.22  · 
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 ·  3,215 ratings  ·  251 reviews


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Matt
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classic-novels
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
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Harper
Feb 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Numidica
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a hard book to rate. Abbey is at his best when describing nature, or his love of nature, or his love of baseball, or his sentimental memories of growing up in rural America (in the book, West Virginia, in reality, western PA). Many parts of the book are laugh out loud funny, and Abbey's writing is entertaining most of the way through. But his dislike of cities devolves into something approaching racism, and his description of women must be viewed through the lens of how he actually lived ...more
L.G. Cullens
Jul 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Review of Edward Abby's The Fool's Progress
[paragraphs in italics are snippets from the book]

Warning: Edward Abby's writing, and possibly my take of it, may anger some. There are some bits of the story where even my annoyance flared. Understandable, being our species is saddled with the Achilles heel of subjective perception, inherited in our evolution.

Nevertheless, this is an exceptional literary accomplishment ranking up there with the best I've read, and the best of Edward Abby's writing. It
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Christine Boyer
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  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 back
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Lucy
Aug 24, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
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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
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Michael Thoeresz
Feb 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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Ryk
Feb 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

Michael John
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Having been a long time Abbey fan, I finally decided to read his "masterpiece." I have read his nature writing and most of his novels. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Edward Abbey has had a profound impact on my life. I read The Monkey Wrench Gang when I was 16 working on trails in the backcountry of Yellowstone and I have never looked back.
With that intro, I have to admit that this was not my favorite of his works. But when you admire and enjoy a writer's voice so much, even works t
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Nicole
Jul 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-hero, pure-win
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
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Charlie
Jan 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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jeremy
Apr 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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-l
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Geoff Gadow
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely Abbey's best novel. I love the Monkey Wrench stuff, but Fool's Progress takes Abbey's writing to a whole other level; a personal one. All of Abbey's work is autobiographical on some way, but this heart-wrenching and profound look at the experience of life and death is as close as he gets to true autobiography. And, yes, it's his best novel for that exact reason.
Brian
Sep 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 20, 2010 rated it did not like it
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.
Allison
May 06, 2010 rated it liked it
I thought this book was hilarious, which has led me to question my morals.
Brendan
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolutely beautiful book, a meditation on life and death and everything in between as only Abbey could tell it.
Elaine
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great writing about a misogynistic asshole, unredeemed.
Valerie
May 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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Ramblin' Man
Aug 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Curlita
Jan 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Erica
Nov 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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Allen Levine
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Fool's Progress is, in some ways, a synthesis of The Monkey Wrench Gang and Desert Solitaire. In it, Abbey examines the relationship people have with each other and the relationship people have with nature. His acute observations and innovative descriptions create a world that is messy, mean, unfair, loving, and extremely funny - as life really is if one takes a moment to contemplate it.

Of the books I read in 2016, The Fool's Progress rated near the top, but was eclipsed by Desert Solitaire,
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B. R. Reed
May 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Edward Abbey was quite the rebel and this book (novel) is a thinly disguised record of his life. It begins with a literal bang with our hero "killing" his refrigerator with his .357 after his most recent wife leaves him. Funny from the outset. He then sets out from AZ to his boyhood home in Appalachia. Abbey had an interesting family, a great mother and father and his love for them comes shining through in The Fool's Progress. It is a book that moves back and forth from past to present. Plenty o ...more
Matthew
This novel was the most gripping I've read in a very long time. I've been obsessed with the Edward Abbey/Wallace Stegner literary exploration of the American West for a while now. I've made it my pledge to flip-flop from one author to the author until all of their catalogs are exhausted. What I didn't expect with this novel was to see so much Appalachia in Abbey's narrative. I knew that this novel was to be Abbey's unofficial autobiography, but I didn't foresee just how much pain and beauty of A ...more
Anna
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
“He remembered best not the development of character or the unraveling or plot or the structure of an argument...but simply the quality of the author’s mind.”

The second half of this book is 200 pages of the most beautiful and heartrending descriptions of nature, loneliness, and the journey home that I’ve ever read. The first half of this book is sometimes challenging, with Henry H. Lightcap being well drawn and nuanced but occasionally loathsome. There’s some self-indulgent scenes and soliloquie
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Lara Stilling
May 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Oh boy. You can try to hate Henry Lightcap as much as you want, but it is a fool's errand. I am as anti-misogynist, anti-glutton, anti-male-worldview as they come, but I love this book. It is a testament to honesty, that no matter how ugly, the truth is always better than the lie. Henry is honest about all his ugly parts from the get-go, and it's amazing how difficult it is to judge an honest man. I love a book about a "journey," and this one might just be the best. No coincidence, I'm sure, tha ...more
Leisha
Feb 22, 2013 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book for the most part, though I will admit I skipped a few pages because of the rambling. This book was very descriptive, in a way that I enjoyed at times, but also got tired of at times. It was humorous and beautiful and sometimes boring. But I am glad I finished it. It is just a story about a man, his dog, his beer, crappy ol' truck and his journey....
Anne
Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-intentions
A masterpiece by Abbey

Monkey wrench was his most touted work, but in the portfolio of Edward Abbey, this novel clearly was the culmination of his magnificent career. Clearly a fictional account of his life, Abbey put his entire soul into this work. A true fan will find everything they love in this book, others will want to read everything ever written. Highly recommended!
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Edward Paul Abbey (1927–1989) was an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues, criticism of public land policies, and anarchist political views.

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
...more

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