Literature: Abbey’s Road

“This crooked chronicle.  These melancholy memoirs.  These banal confessions of a literary bum.  Why write, why write at all?  What is the point of this tedious scratching, this laborious typing, this endless monologue written on the wind?” –Edward Abbey, in the Introduction to Abbey’s Road (1979)

Abbey’s Road Abbey’s Road, a collection of nonfiction essays by Edward Abbey, covers quite a bit of ground—from Australia’s interior to Mexico’s coast to the American desert.  The book is divided into three sections:  Travel, Polemics and Sermons, and Personal History, infused—in typical Abbey fashion—with curmudgeonly comments, out-there adventure, and at least one bad night in a bar.  Of the essays, I found “Back of Beyond” to be the most rip-roaring.  This essay reads like an out-of-control car careening down a highway at night.  It gains momentum and gets ugly and ends in (figurative and literal) demolition.  In this essay, Abbey tells of his journey into “the red heart of Australia” and his attempt to drive a “fat Ford Falcon four-door sedan (made in Adelaide)” to Ayers Rock.  Despite a flopping flat tire, Abbey drives on.  When the “OIL” and “TEMP” lights start glowing, Abbey drives on.  Only when the vehicle smokes and sputters to a standstill does he finally give it up.  Perhaps even better than the book’s essays is its introduction, aptly titled “Introduction: Confessions of a Literary Hobo.”  Here, we catch Abbey in a few moments of heart-to-heart.  In answer to his own question: “Why write, why write at all?”  Abbey offers this reason, among a few others that are just as compelling:  “Through the art of language…we communicate to others what would be intolerable to bear alone.”         

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One response to “Literature: Abbey’s Road

  1. Pingback: Literature: Cahalan’s Abbey: A Life « DOWN and OUT

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