MOTHER's Newsworthies: Edward Abbey, Garrison Keillor and Barbara Bel Geddes

Learn how author Edward Abbey, radio talk-host Garrison Keillor and actress Barbara Bel Geddes practice simplicity in their day-to-day lives.

| September/October 1982

Brief: Edward Abbey

In 15 published books, Edward Abbey has shown himself to be a novelist, essayist, eco-raider, desert rat, fire lookout, exalter of the wilderness, and eloquent self-proclaimed defender of the American West. Saving the world, however, is just one of his hobbies.

Abbey's new book, Down the River, is an exhilarating collection of essays — mostly about the agonies and raptures of river rafting — wrapped around a few good stories and some zesty polemics.

A true autochthonic — that is, sprung from the earth — patriot (as he describes one of his own characters), Abbey swears allegiance only to the land he knows ... the spare, rough, wild, undeveloped, and unbroken slick-rock/canyon/desert he's lived in most of his adult life. "I was an environmentalist, an ecologist, before I ever heard the terms," he says.

The writer favors low productivity and a contracting economy. "Growth for the sake of growth [is the] ideology of the cancer cell," Edward says. He also favors tax, policies that encourage negative population growth: "A population of 100 million might make the U.S. livable again."

Perhaps most of all, Abbey is opposed to what developers and their political friends call the "humanization" of the West. It's natural, he emphasizes, for the desert to be "not inhuman but nonhuman".

Edward Abbey's best-selling work, The Monkey Wrench Gang, is about four likable heroes — not protagonists ... heroes — who make "eco-raids" upon industrial tourism and commercial development. This book, which many consider to be Abbey's finest novel, is obviously based on his own hands-on experience. In fact, the author considers himself an agrarian anarchist, an agitator, an extremist. "Human society," he has said, "is like a stew ... if you don't keep it stirred up, you get a lot of scum on top." — Morton Kamins.  

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