The Hundredth Meridian

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Edward Paul Abbey

1927-1989

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—Inscription on Edward Abbey’s
grave marker, Cabeza Prieta
wilderness, Arizona

My friend Edward Abbey, dead these 13 years, is finally the subject of a formal biography, published last year by the University of Arizona Press and written by a man who never even met him.  Most biographers, of course, have been unknown to their biographees, though the ratio is probably shifting on the contemporary literary scene, where a dwindling number of serious authors is unable to accommodate the burgeoning horde of hungry academic pilot fish so desperate for a literary shark to attach themselves to that they ingratiate themselves with established writers in their 40’s and 50’s in hopes of inheriting a rich literary legacy that can be parleyed, via a fat “authorized” biography, into a Full Professorship two or three decades down the road.  More unusual in Abbey’s case  than the absence of any personal connection between subject and scholar is the institutional tie linking the late novelist and essayist with his Boswell’s publishers, the Regents of the University of Arizona, where Abbey taught for some years and which elevated him, a year before he died, to the position of “Fool Professor” in...

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