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All The Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West Hardcover – Illustrated, April 20, 2015
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An homage to the West and to two great writers who set the standard for all who celebrate and defend it.
Archetypal wild man Edward Abbey and proper, dedicated Wallace Stegner left their footprints all over the western landscape. Now, award-winning nature writer David Gessner follows the ghosts of these two remarkable writer-environmentalists from Stegner's birthplace in Saskatchewan to the site of Abbey's pilgrimages to Arches National Park in Utah, braiding their stories and asking how they speak to the lives of all those who care about the West.
These two great westerners had very different ideas about what it meant to love the land and try to care for it, and they did so in distinctly different styles. Boozy, lustful, and irascible, Abbey was best known as the author of the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang (and also of the classic nature memoir Desert Solitaire), famous for spawning the idea of guerrilla actions―known to admirers as "monkeywrenching" and to law enforcement as domestic terrorism―to disrupt commercial exploitation of western lands. By contrast, Stegner, a buttoned-down, disciplined, faithful family man and devoted professor of creative writing, dedicated himself to working through the system to protect western sites such as Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado.
In a region beset by droughts and fires, by fracking and drilling, and by an ever-growing population that seems to be in the process of loving the West to death, Gessner asks: how might these two farseeing environmental thinkers have responded to the crisis?
Gessner takes us on an inspiring, entertaining journey as he renews his own commitment to cultivating a meaningful relationship with the wild, confronting American overconsumption, and fighting environmental injustice―all while reawakening the thrill of the words of his two great heroes.
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― Andrew Martin, Washington Post
"Never reduces either man to simplistic categories, but sees in both personalities possible life models, men who loved nature and felt keenly the limits on human liberty."
― David Mason, Wall Street Journal
"This timely mash-up of environmental journalism, biography, travel writing, and literary criticism has Gessner hitting the road in search of the real story behind ‘two of the most effective environmental fighters of the 20th century…What emerges is a joyful adventure in geography and in reading―and in coming to terms with how the domestic and the wild can co-exist over time."
― Joy Horowitz, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Two extraordinary men and one remarkable book. To understand how we understand the natural world, you need to read this book."
― Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth
"An excellent study of two difficult men."
― Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove and The Last Kind Words Saloon
"A travel book, yes, a literary memoir, yes, and a profound meditation on our myths and shadows. Anyone who loves the American West will be enraptured by this book. It is a wonderful piece of work."
― Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter and Queen of America
"This book rubs Abbey and Stegner's history in the dust and sand so beloved to them, posing these two late icons among voices, landscapes, and arguments that endure in western wilderness, deftly creating a larger geographic chronicle."
― Craig Childs, author of House of Rain and Apocalyptic Planet
"Praise David Gessner for reawakening us, in these climactically challenged times, to the wisdom of our two most venerated literary grandfathers of the American West, to remind us of our wilder longings, to incite in us a fury, that we might act―even now―to defend all the wild that remains."
― Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness and Contents May Have Shifted
"To understand the truth of the Desert West, read Stegner. To understand one writer's emotional response to that desert and to our thoughtless destruction of wilderness, read Abbey. To understand the two writers as men of their times―and ours―read Gessner: for his honesty, compassion, humility, scholarship, and sensibility."
― Stephen Trimble, author of Bargaining for Eden
"A spirited, ecologically minded travelogue…. [Gessner] writers with a vividness that brings the serious ecological issues and the beauty of the land…to sharp relief…urgent and engrossing."
― Publishers Weekly, Starred review
About the Author
- Publisher : W. W. Norton & Company; Illustrated edition (April 20, 2015)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0393089991
- ISBN-13 : 978-0393089998
- Item Weight : 1.46 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,463,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on May 6, 2017
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The travelogue is much more urban than wild. Aside from a rafting trip, Gessner doesn’t share wilderness experiences with us. In fact, the longer experiences are the oil boom town of Vernal and some time in Salt Lake City archives. One of my favorite parts was his conversation with other writers of nature – notably Wendell Berry in Fort Royal, Kentucky, Terry Tempest Williams near Moab, Utah, and Doug Peacock in Paradise Valley, Montana.
Indeed, one of the real challenges we face is that too many of us who talk and write about wilderness do so from urban homes. After all, Cactus Ed Abbey wrote Desert Solitaire in Hoboken, New Jersey. Gessner writes from Wilmington, North Carolina. That’s a challenge we all might ponder.
Regardless of place, this is a great book that should be of interest to a wide range of readers. Gessner writes well, and his reflections on these writers are helpful. I know some of all five of these writers’ works, and it was good to learn more about their entire oeuvres. With the other writers, I also gained a renewed sense of place in environmental writing.
Well, in the end I was very disappointed. So much so that I had to go back and look at the reviews once again since I could not believe we all read the same book. Everyone has their own tastes, but Gessner’s writing style was so off-putting that it was a struggle to finish the book. In the end, I found the other poor reviews for this book (1 & 2 star) resonated more truthfully.
While I recommend reading Ed Abbey & Wallace Stegner’s works, avoid wasting your time and money on Gessner’s book.
The sober account of what has happened, what is going on now and what is to come in the West is sobering. He's done a great job of taking us on a tour, laying it out and asking us to think about it. There's lots to consider about ourselves as well as our country. A great job and a wonderful read.
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His style of writing is a little odd. It took me a long time to figure out exactly what was going on. Is this travel writing? An environmentalist's screed and call-to-arms? A biography of Stegner and Abbey? A literary analysis of the Western canon? It is all these things blended together. It's a bit confusing and overwhelming at times, but engaging and informative at other points. Gessner hits his stride later when writing about his own travels with his daughter, in my opinion, although his details about Abbey are pretty much fascinating throughout.