Literature: Advice from Abbey

“…one word is worth a thousand pictures. If it’s the right word. The good word.” –Edward Abbey

utahhhhhIf you’ve ever read any of Edward Abbey’s books, you’ll find it impossible to wander around in Moab, Utah without thinking about him. Abbey—author and famed desert anarchist—worked as a seasonal park ranger at Arches National Park and based Desert Solitaire on his 1956 and 1957 summer seasons there. Abbey claimed he earned only $1.95 an hour, and with a wife and a child to support, he must have felt compelled to justify his choice of employment besides its financial rewards. “I like my job,” Abbey says in Desert Solitaire, “The fringe benefits are priceless: clean air to breathe (after the spring sandstorms); stillness, solitude, and space; an unobstructed view every day and every night of sun, sky, stars, clouds, mountains, moon, cliffrock and canyons; a sense of time enough to let thought and feeling range from here to the end of the world and back; the discovery of something intimate—though impossible to name—in the remote.”

Abbey was vehemently opposed to the idea of having cars—“steaming shells of steel and glass”—driving through the national parks, but whether or not he liked the idea, a ribbon of asphalt was rolled out in Arches anyway, and for a $15 entry fee, visitors can drive right up to their pay-per-night campsites (those are $10 a night). I guess I like my wilderness a bit more on the wild side, but I also want others to have the opportunity to experience the mind-blowing beauty of places like Arches National Park. So I can’t complain that there are now sinks and toilets and other amenities at Arches. I’m thankful for writers like Edward Abbey, however—writers who don’t mind viciously defending the natural world and inspiring others to keep what remains of it intact.

Some more advice from Abbey:

“If we could learn to love space as deeply as we are now obsessed with time, we might discover a new meaning in the phrase to live like men.”

On literary rejections:
“…my policy was, Always reject rejections. Apply unremitting pressure until the editors crack and yield.”

“[Americans] see wilderness disappearing, slipping away, receding into an inaccessible past. But they are mistaken. That world can still be rescued. That is one reason why I myself am still willing to write about it.”

He’s kidding…but it’s still funny:
“Speaking for myself, I write mainly for the money. Only a blockhead would write for anything else.”

“I’m willing to listen to reason. If I hear any.”

“When the situation is hopeless, there is nothing to worry about.”

Quotes from Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire (1968) and Abbey’s Road (1979).

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2 responses to “Literature: Advice from Abbey

  1. Both Abbey and Gary Snyder worked summer jobs in the parks – Snyder was on trail crew in Tuolomne. I attended a poetry hearing by him last summer in Tuolomne , where he read some poems he’d written while on trail crew there decades earlier. Truly inspiring.

  2. Pingback: nature, death, writing beauty | littleblackjournal[dot]com

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