Confessions of a Barbarian
A new mock-up for an old favourite. I first discovered Edward Abbey via the artwork of Robert Crumb, whose art blew my mind when I was eleven years old. Crumb did illustrations for an edition of Abbey’s classic novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, a book once passed around furtively for fear that it’s anarchist sympathies might bring you to the unwanted attention of ‘The Man’. From that, I was inevitably led to a book published in the year of my birth, the one that really made his name: Desert Solitaire. In the late 1950’s, Abbey worked the summer season as a park ranger at the Arches National Monument, near Moab, Utah. The job lent him ample time to just sit and ponder his immediate environment and man’s place in it, and he verbalises his observations at length, interspersed with anecdotes from his experiences in the desert. It’s one of those books that no-one else could have written, the kind that hits some people’s planet’s like a comet, forever after altering the topography of their minds. As a fellow contrarian, advocate of wilderness, and despiser of the modern capitalist monoculture, I agree with most of what he has to say, arguments articulated with uncompromising clarity and the pristine logic of the ancient philosophers of Greece or Rome, but with no shortage of poetry. To read him describe the air dance of a red-tailed hawk is to be up there with it, flying high above the sun-scorched desert, whereas to hear him tear into the myth of “progress” is to be in the presence of a sage who knows from bitter experience that of which he speaks.