What the Editors Are Reading

In spring, my thoughts turn first to the Southwest, that most beautiful and haunting part of it especially, the canyon country of southeastern Utah.  There was a time when I pulled my horses down there every year toward the end of March and spent a week or ten days riding and camping south of Moab in the vicinity of the Colorado River.  Whether I’ll manage a visit this year is uncertain, so in the meantime I’ve returned to the finest book ever written about the region, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness (1968)—by my late friend Edward Abbey, of course.  Reading it is as close as one can ever get to this dreamlike region without actually being there.

Abbey describes his work as an evocation, not an “imitation.”  “I have tried to create a world of words in which the desert figures more as a medium than as material.”  The book is an account of the two six-month seasons (elided to a single literary season) spent by the author as a seasonal park ranger at Arches National Monument north of Moab.  Though Abbey drew upon his journals to write this book, the format he employs is a storyteller’s, an essayist’s, and at times a polemicist’s, not a diarist’s.  Though he could be amusing as a novelist (The Monkey Wrench Gang, etc.), the novel was not really his métier:...

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