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Desert Solitaire
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am 26. Dezember 1998
Edward Abbey introduced me to the desert via this book. I was never aware of the inherent beauty of emptiness, the fullness of the barren landscape, and the passion that can be aroused by areas others reject as hostile and useless. For me, this book was pivotal in that it made me seek other books by Abbey as well as Stegner, Bass, Zwinger, McPhee, Dillard, and others whose senses and intellect are focused on God's creation.
When I heard of Abbey's death almost a decade ago, I realized that a light had gone out - but on reflection, I realize he turned on many other lights before he left.
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am 18. Juli 1999
This is a totally enjoyable and recommended book. My only problem is that the author as a National Park System ranger does so many dangerous things that cannot be condoned. Please do not follow his example. It is very dangerous to do the following, as he did.
1. Hike through the desert without a supply of water. 2. Climb a 13,000 foot peak alone with no one to go for help if needed. 3. Sliding down a 2,000 foot snow slide without proper equipment. 4. Rafting down the Colorado River without a life vest. 5. Descending alone down a canyon for a short cut and getting stuck in a deadly position, with no way to get help. 6. Hiking many places off of established trails all alone. 7. Hiking so far that it requires a more dangerous return in the dark of night. 8. Starting wild fires due to carelessness with pipe smoking. 9. Trying to capture a wild horse all alone and getting run over. This was done while all alone with no possibility of getting help if injured. 10. Drinking water from any available creek, pond or seep. Western water is now dangerous to drink in all western national parks. Treatment is necessary. 11. Eating five eggs and half a pound of bacon for breakfast. Is this the reason he died so young?
Many tourists may read this book and follow his bad examples. I wish that he had given more words of caution. Follow the advice of more knowledgeable park rangers. Enjoy this wonderful book but be careful.
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am 5. Januar 2000
Abbey thinks the only way to appreciate nature is his way, which is awfully shortsighted. He gets that point across in the first two chapters, and the rest are just more instances of him ranting against all the things he can't stand about the rest of the human race, and then doing some of those very things himself. Very hypocritical. When he isn't preaching and is telling stories of his adventures instead, the book is excellent.
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am 15. Juli 2000
The anger in Abbey's prose has been justified as every year we see more and more of our wilderness trampled, cut, paved and polluted. Desert Solitaire should be re-read every 3 years to remind us of what we're doing to our open spaces. His voice needs to be kept alive as one of the great spokesmen for the land. This is an excellent primer for anyone interested in preserving our natural heritage.
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am 30. Mai 2000
Abbey receives a sympathy vote from me for several reasons: This is one of his first works, and it's also the first one of his that I read. But my review here is based upon re-reading the work almost 20 years later.
Edward Abbey is a man at home with himself. One gets the impression reading Desert Solitaire that he is always by himself, even though he was married, and had several children. I've no doubt he was a loner, and the ideal world he portrays is one where Abbey travels the world alone with nature - talking to snakes, chasing wild horses and cows, and observing nature's interplay, far from the meddling influences of humanity. As a ranger in utah, he views the intruding, artificial world of we termite-people with disdain. As a writer, he builds on this and other themes in a matter-of-fact, yet deeply challenging way. This is the style of writing he came to be known so well for in his later works.
Environmentalists like to claim Abbey as their spokesman, and Abbey definitely gave the appearance of a nature-lover. But I'm more inclined to think of him as a "human-hater". I think he knew deep-down that humans are nature's spawn, and nature has always been powerless to be pro-active in perserving its various features. Nothing is sacred, including the wonderful architecture of the Colorado Plateau. Abbey was deeply in love with the alone-ness that the area represented to him, and was every bit as deeply angered by the ever-increasing ranks of people intent on despoiling it. If that's an environmentalist, then so be it. But in Desert Solitaire, there is never any pretense that man and desert could ever be compatible. Indeed, if there is any point to be made, it is exactly the opposite.
You'll find it tough being the bad guy. Nevertheless, it'll be every bit as hard to put this book down. Read it and weep.
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am 24. Dezember 1999
I give this book 5 stars for Abbey's beautiful and vivid depiction of the Southwest landscape, and his ability to evoke a powerful sense of what's already been lost and what's at stake. This should be a must-read for anyone who loves the Southwest and cares about its future. At the same time, I have to say I agree with some of the comments by other reviewers about how he sometimes seems to be much more aware of how others impact the pristine wilderness areas than of how he does so himself. After reading his biting observations in the "Down the River" chapter about campers who left an old shoe in a spring and a dirty sock hanging from a bush, I was a little taken aback when he started the next chapter with the following story: "On the way we stopped off briefly to roll an old tire into the Grand Canyon. While watching the tire bounce over tall pine trees, tear hell out of a mule train and disappear with a final grand leap into the inner gorge..." Then on to the next adventure, with no further mention of the poor mule train or of the tire which will probably be there for hundreds of years longer than will the old shoe and sock. What makes that attitude even harder to understand is his obvious deep love for the natural beauty and wildness of the region. At times his lyrical reflections almost pass into the realm of the mystical and sublime, such as during his journey through the doomed Glen Canyon. Despite the occasional contradictions, this book is a classic, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the Southwest.
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am 7. Januar 2000
When reading DESERT SOLITAIRE, it's easy (and judging from many of the reviews on this page, rather common) to wander off into the side canyon of one's personal perception of Ed Abbey's personality, and before long, find yourself keeled over from the heat. Not a very pretty way to go, especially if it means you've ultimately missed the point and real beauty of this eloquant love letter to Utah's Canyonlands.
Abbey captures the true splendor of the desert here, while at the same time speaking with both frankness and conviction of what he saw as the coming flash flood of the land's misuse. His chapter 'Down the River' illustrates this dual purpose of the book perhaps better than any other. Not only does it disarmingly woo the reader, bringing out one's deepest, most romantic feelings of wanderlust, but at the same time, slaps the reader awake with the fact that the story's perfect setting is now lost to all men for all times.
I was lucky enough to have (sort of) know Ed Abbey nearly 20 years ago. He taught a class in short-story writing I took at the University of Arizona. And while I didn't see eye to eye with him on all his political views, or agree with him on his assesment of my papers (the s o b gave me a C) I can tell you the man got a lot of pleasure from just living his life, and a big chuckle from getting at people's goat. Judging from the varied opinions below, DESERT SOLITAIRE seems to have pulled them both off.
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am 23. Juli 2015
This book (first published in 1968) is a wonderful reflection on the desert, desert life, nature, wilderness, humanity and civilisation. The language is strong, utterly honest and sometimes beautiful poetic (".... the times passed extremely slowly, as time should pass, with the days lingering and long, spacious and free as the summers of childhood").

The author warns the reader in the introduction, that some of the book will seem "coarse, rude, bad-tempered, violently prejudiced, unconstructive, antisocial...", but for me it is one man's honest view. Even if I don't agree to all, I really appreciate honesty above all. His reflection on humanity and mankind, while drifting down a river with a friend for many days, is deep and significant. And his distinction between civilisation and culture is just superb.

Living myself in the desert for many years I greatly enjoyed this book. Abbeys description of his feelings in the desert gave names to many of my own feelings, never put into words yet - only into photos.
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am 16. Mai 1999
When he wrote this book, Cactus Ed did such a great job in describing the canyon country of southern Utah that you can recommend it to everyone who likes widerness. Not the pseudo-one we have today, no, the real one, where you can truly be in touch with the universe. I live overseas and, each time I miss the colourful landscapes of Utah, I read this book and the desert appears before my eyes. But there's not only descriptions, Abbey also try to find solutions to preserve this unique region from all the dam and road builders only looking for profit, and that's not the least interesting part ! Well, if you prefer action, read "The Monkeywrench Gang". Oh yes, Ed's sometime contradictory, but who's not ? And that's also why Desert Solitaire is so powerful : Abbey didn't try to hide the good nor the bad aspects of his life there. It's a book live from the desert !
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am 4. Juni 1999
Abbey's "Desert Solitaire" is a classic, and I can hardly add to the adoring comments others have already made.
However, I can point out the irony the book itself represents. The people who hold the book up as an icon of the wilderness movement are often the very people Abbey would have deplored. For example, the mountain bikers who treat the Arches National Mounument as their own personal playground--who throw beer bottles around, play loud music, and leave bycicle skid marks on the slick rock--love Abbey's book and think of him as a "righteous dude," but their cavalier treatment of this natural wonder represents the very thing that Abbey condemns in "Desert Solitaire."
I shed a tear everytime I reread "Desert Solitaire," for Arches has become worse than Abbey's greatest fears.
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