CONFESSIONS OF A BARBARIAN: SELECTIONS FROM THE JOURNAL OF EDWARD ABBEY, 1951-1989
Author: Edward Abbey
Publisher: Big Earth / Johnson, Sep 2003
Recapture the real Ed Abbey, & all his glorious contradictions. A lifelong conversation he had with himself; covers the range of his life. Intro by David Petersen. Drawings by author; 6x9 inches, 400 pgs.
Since Edward Abbey?s death in 1989, his legendary stature as the inspiration for the environmental movement in the West has grown and grown. Famous as the author of Desert Solitaire and the Monkey Wrench Gang, he came to be known as Cactus Ed. But in this process of iconization, Edward Abbey the man sometimes gets lost. These journals recapture the real Ed Abbey, and all his glorious contradictions. Presented chronologically, they contain a lifelong conversation he had with himself, and cover the range of his life.
Abbey?s journals are the closest thing to an autobiography we will ever have. They begin with his youthful philosophical ruminations about art, love, literature, and anarchy as a student at Edinburgh; follow his wanderings through Europe, Scandinavia, and the eastern United States and finally, at length, to his spiritual home, the American West; record his many loves and marriages; and chronicle his lifelong struggle to preserve the disappearing southwestern wilderness, as well as his bitter and often hilarious disputes with the East Coast intelligentsia. His journals contain the first inklings?backgrounds, narrative pictures, and sketches?of his hard-hitting, popular, irreverent published works. But perhaps more important, they offer us a portrait of Abbey the man: the friend, enemy, husband, lover, loner, writer, and fiery environmentalist who forever changed the way we look at the American West.
In preparing the journals for print, Petersen chose not to ?sanitize? Abbey by intentionally deleting material that might strike some readers or critics as politically incorrect or otherwise offensive. To cater to the dogma of ?correctness,? Petersen felt, would be to betray both Ed and his dedication to candidness. Such ?protective censorship? would also cheat readers both now and in the future, since, as Petersen points out, a politically correct Edward Abbey would be?well, no Edward Abbey at all.
This new edition features the first uncut and unexpurgated appearance of Dave Petersen?s interview, ?Heading Home: Edward Abbey Talks About Writing,? in which Abbey speaks candidly about his own work, his approach to writing, and his writing mechanics as well. Also new to this edition is a detailed index, which should be of enormous help to scholars, students, writers, and readers trying to navigate its pages.
WHAT THE EXPERTS ARE SAYING:
?Cranky, difficult, opinionated, courageous, gifted, smart, outspoken, totally unconventional: in short, Edward Abbey. We don?t have enough honest men. He was one of the few, and always uncompromising about it.?
?An interior drama of the highest order that chronicles the life and thought of a man struggling with (and often against) himself.?
?Well done, David Petersen. Every writer should be so lucky in the treatment of his posthumous works.?
?His greatest creative act was his own life, and because of that, these journals may well be his greatest book.?
?The New York Times Book Review
From ?Heading Home: Edward Abbey Talks About Writing?:
?I don?t think there are any shortcuts to good writing. You just have to have something to say, something you care about deeply and intensely. If there?s something you want to say strongly enough, you?ll find a way to say it and technique will create itself as you proceed. Technique can be learned, and technique is essential, but technique is not sufficient in itself. It?s more important, I feel, to have some idea, some emotion, some knowledge, some question you want to com-municate to others as effectively as you can. In other words, what you want to say should determine how you say it. I don?t think good writing is ever easy. Shortcuts suggest some easy way to write well, and I don?t think there is any easy way to write well, to write good, unless you?re some sort of rare genius. I don?t know of any good writer, of any great writer, who didn?t write with great effort. I?ve heard that Dickens hardly revised at all, and what we read is more or less his first version. But then, I for one have a lot of objections to Dickens? art.
?You just have to do the best you can, and doing the best you can is hard. It?s hard because we all have far more potential ability, potential power within us, than we ever exert or exercise. It?s so easy to just drift along at half-steam, half-throttle, half-alive, half-functioning, using half your powers. The tragedy is that more of us live our whole lives that way, without ever really learning what we?re capable of. If you?re going to do your best, that means you have to make a great effort, muster intense concentration, and that?s never easy; it?s hard. And that?s why it?s so seldom done. That?s why there are ten thousand bad books for every good one.?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Edward Abbey (1927?1989) was the author of eight books of fiction (of which Black Sun was his third) and fourteen books of nonfiction.