EDWARD ABBEY Biography - Writers


Biography » writers » edward abbey


Edward Paul Abbey (January 29, 1927 - March 14, 1989) was an American author and         
essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues and criticism of public         
land policies. His best-known works include the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang,           
which has been cited as an inspiration by radical environmental groups, and the         
non-fiction work Desert Solitaire. Writer Larry McMurtry referred to Abbey as           
the "Thoreau of the American West".                                                     
Abbey was born in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and grew up in nearby Home,                     
Pennsylvania, where there is a Pennsylvania state historical marker in his honor         
In the summer of 1944 he headed west, and fell in love with the desert                   
country of the Four Corners region. He wrote, "For the first time, I felt I was         
getting close to the West of my deepest imaginings, the place where the tangible         
and the mythical became the same." He received a Master's Degree in philosophy           
from the University of New Mexico and also studied at the University of                 
Edinburgh. In the late 1950s Abbey worked as a seasonal ranger for the United           
States Park Service at Arches National Monument (now a national park), near the         
town of Moab, Utah, which was not then known for extreme sports but for its             
desolation and uranium mines. It was there that he penned the journals that             
would become one of his most famous works, 1968's Desert Solitaire, which Abbey         
described "...not [as] a travel guide, but an elegy."                                   
Desert Solitaire is regarded as one of the finest nature narratives in American         
literature, and has been compared to Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac and           
Thoreau's Walden. In it, Abbey vividly describes the physical landscapes of             
Southern Utah and delights in his isolation as a backcountry park ranger,               
recounting adventures in the nearby canyon country and mountains. He also               
attacks what he terms the "industrial tourism" and resulting development in the         
national parks ("national parking lots"), rails against the Glen Canyon Dam, and         
comments on various other subjects.                                                     
Abbey died in 1989 at the age of 62 at his home near Oracle, Arizona. He is             
survived by two daughters, Susie and Becky; and three sons, Joshua, Aaron and           
Edward Abbey died on March 14, 1989 due to complications from surgery. Abbey             
died after four days of esophageal hemorrhaging, due to esophageal verices, a           
recurrent problem with one group of veins. Showing his sense of humor, he left a         
message for anyone who asked about his final words: "No comment." Abbey also             
left instructions on what to do with his remains. These instructions were               
described in an Outside magazine article written by David Quammen in June 1989:         
He wanted his body transported in the bed of a pickup truck. He wanted to be             
buried as soon as possible. He wanted no undertakers. No embalming, for Godsake!         
No coffin. Just an old sleeping bag... Disregard all state laws concerning               
burial. "I want my body to help fertilize the growth of a cactus or cliff rose           
or sagebrush or tree." said the message.                                                 
As for graveside ceremony: He wanted gunfire, and a little music. "No formal             
speeches desired, though the deceased will not interfere if someone feels the           
urge. But keep it all simple and brief." And then a big happy raucous wake. He           
wanted more music, gay and lively music. He wanted bagpipes. "And a flood of             
beer and booze! Lots of singing, dancing, talking, hollering, laughing, and             
lovemaking." said the message. And meat! Beans and chilis! And corn on the cob.         
Only a man deeply in love with life and hopelessly soft on humanity would               
specify, from beyond the grave, that his mourners receive corn on the cob.