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University of New Mexico Press
The following review appeared in the October 2015 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Language & Literature - English & American
Respected environmental scholar John Murray gathers a diverse cast of contributors to reflect on the enduring influence of Edward Abbey (1927–1989). Writing from a wide array of disciplines—biology, music, medicine, philosophy, resource management, education, literature—these scholars and personal friends of Abbey reflect on his ideas from locations as far-flung as Alaska, the Caribbean, and Chile. The resulting volume does not become hagiography; the contributors acknowledge Abbey's struggles with alcohol, his uneven writing, and his mercurial personality. Nonetheless, these essays constitute a reassessment of Abbey's reputation, particularly as an essayist, arguing that he deserves a preeminent place in the literary history of the American West. Several contributors compare Abbey to Henry Thoreau or Wendell Berry, portraying all three figures as contrarian essayist-activists whose writings speak for their places. Murray's essay, the longest in the collection, provides an account of a 1988 conversation with Abbey that reveals his often-thorny relationships with a wide range of authors and activists. That situates him as the "hub" of a literary culture. Graced throughout by photographs, this well-conceived book will find an audience among those studying the American West and its literary culture.--J. Bilbro, Spring Arbor University