What the Editors Are Reading

I’m rereading large portions of Ed Abbey’s books (of course) as Chronicles goes to press: Desert Solitaire, Black Sun and The Fool’s Progress (both novels), Abbey’s Road, One Life at a Time, Please, Down the River, Beyond the Wall, The Journey Home . . . the record of a full, busy, and productive lifetime in fiction, narrative nonfiction, travel writing, essays, and reportage, all of it devoted to describing, evoking, defending, and preserving the author’s beloved Old American West, which he identified as “my home.  All of it.”  No one ever wrote better about the Great American Desert region and its adjacent areas than he, and no one ever will.  Compared with Abbey’s prose, that of Thoreau (a crashing, tedious bore) is dead on the page.  Here is his description of a fire ranger’s morning on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon:

The world is very quiet.  Almost silent.  The clear song of the hermit thrush exaggerates the stillness, makes it seem only more stark.  If he were listening the man could hear the murmur of the fire in the stove, the crack of the metal roof expanding slightly in the first sunlight, the fall of a spruce cone on the ground outside [his cabin at the foot of the tower lookout].  But nothing else.  Later in the season—soon...

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