The Hundredth Meridian

Abbey Lives!

Fifteen years after I arrived in the West, I can no longer recall how I first became aware of Edward Abbey, though I do know that I had been the book editor of a national magazine for nearly four years before the name penetrated my consciousness. (The parochialism of the New York literati.) But I remember as if it were yesterday buying an armload of his books at the Zion Bookstore in Salt Lake City (capital of the only society on earth where a Jew is a gentile) and reading them in bed in my single-bedroom rental in the Regency Apartments in Kemmerer while blizzards raged out-of-doors and an occasional pistol discharged in one of the surrounding units, followed by drunken shouts and a confused roaring, I was working in the oil patch that winter, arriving home at odd hours of the day and night, my biological clock gone haywire, my muscles aching, my body stiff from the forty- and fifty-below zero temperatures; and though I accomplished little reading in those months, I did manage to plough through everything of Abbey's I could find in Salt Lake. Quite an effort—like managing to drink a case of beer after being lost in the desert all day. He has been dead nearly six years now, still owing me the protracted horseback trip along the Mexican border we had promised one another, but, as if by some miracle, the books have started coming again: Confessions of a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey, 1951-1989 (Boston:...

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