I just finished reading Chilton Williamson, Jr.’s May entry in What the Editors Are Reading, regarding Ed Abbey.
I have been reading Edward Abbey’s work for years (my dog-eared copy of Desert Solitaire is a Ballantine paperback purchased in 1972 for 95 cents), and my library of Abbey’s work includes Appalachian Wilderness, Slickrock, Confessions of a Barbarian, and One Life at a Time, Please.
I was never able to get into Abbey’s eco terrorism fiction. However, I have read Black Sun, The Brave Cowboy, and A Fool’s Progress. And that brings me to the point of this letter.
There are not many writers of “contemporary” fiction whose work I will read more than once. (Robert Penn Warren and Walker Percy are two exceptions that come to mind.) However, I have read A Fool’s Progress several times. Perhaps one reason for this is that the trials and travails of the protagonist, Henry Lightcap, make this novel somewhat autobiographical, in that many of Henry’s adventures are taken directly from Abbey’s life. Also, this was Abbey’s last literary effort, written as his health problems were increasing in severity and published shortly before his death. The story of Henry Lightcap’s journey home from Tucson to his brother’s Appalachian farm is a bittersweet tale. All of the signature Abbey themes are addressed: hatred of feminism, love of firearms, his affection for an authentic America, and his antipathy for “progress.” This is easily his best effort in fiction.
By the way, I have also read and enjoyed Mr. Williamson’s work, including Roughnecking It, The Conservative Bookshelf, The Hundredth Meridian, Mexico Way, and After Tocqueville.
I thoroughly enjoy Chronicles and appreciate the work Williamson, his staff, and contributors do manning the ramparts in defense of our Western civilization. It sometimes appears to be an impossible job fending off the barbarians at the gate, but with the Lord’s help I trust we will someday be successful.
Overland Park, KS