Edward Abbey : A Life: A Life
Book: Edward Abbey : A Life: A Life , by James M. Cahalan, ISBN10: 0816519064, ISBN13: 9780816519064, University of Arizona Press, September 2001, Hardcover
Jim Cahalan is Professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches a course on the national parks and has received IUP's Distinguished Faculty Award for Research. He sponsored the Pennsylvania state historical marker for Edward Abbey in Home.
"The best biography ever about Ed. Cahalan s meticulous research and thoughtful interviews have made this book the authoritative source for Abbey scholars and fans alike." Doug Peacock, author, environmentalist activist and explorer, and the inspiration for Hayduke in The Monkey Wrench Gang
He was a hero to environmentalists and the patron saint of monkeywrenchers, a man in love with desert solitude. A supposed misogynist, ornery and contentious, he nevertheless counted women among his closest friends and admirers. He attracted a cult following, but he was often uncomfortable with it. He was a writer who wandered far from Home without really starting out there. James Cahalan has written a definitive biography of a contemporary literary icon whose life was a web of contradictions. Edward Abbey: A Life sets the record straight on "Cactus Ed," giving readers a fuller, more human Abbey than most have ever known. It separates fact from fiction, showing that much of the myth surrounding Abbeysuch as his birth in Home, Pennsylvania, and later residence in Oracle, Arizonawas self-created and self-perpetuated. It also shows that Abbey cultivated a persona both in his books and as a public speaker that contradicted his true nature: publicly racy and sardonic, he was privately reserved and somber. Cahalan studied all of Abbey's works and private papers and interviewed many people who knew himincluding the models for characters in The Brave Cowboy and The Monkey Wrench Gangto create the most complete picture to date of the writer's life. He examines Abbey's childhood roots in the East and his love affair with the West, hispersonal relationships and tempestuous marriages, and his myriad jobs in continually shifting locationsincluding sixteen national parks and forests. He also explores Abbey's writing process, his broad intellectual interests, and the philosophical roots of his politics. For Abbey fans who assume that his "honest novel," The Fool's Progress, was factual or that his public statements were entirely off the cuff, Cahalan's evenhanded treatment will be an eye-opener. More than a biography, Edward Abbey: A Life is a corrective that shows that he was neither simply a countercultural cowboy hero nor an unprincipled troublemaker, but instead a complex and multifaceted person whose legacy has only begun to be appreciated. The book contains 30 photographs, capturing scenes ranging from Abbey's childhood to his burial site.
With a subject as mythic as Cactus Ed Abbey (The Fool's Progress; The Monkey Wrench Gang), separating fact from fiction requires the skills of a researcher like Cahalan (Double Visions: Women and Men in Modern and Contemporary Irish Fiction) particularly because Abbey promoted much of the fiction himself. Affectionate but not besotted with his subject, Cahalan presents Abbey's strengths and shortcomings in equal light and without judgment, in the end clearing up many misunderstandings. For example, while Abbey was a promiscuous womanizer who married five times and had many affairs during all but his last marriage, his reputation, particularly among feminists, as a misogynist is, according to Cahalan, unfounded. Self-indulgent in the extreme and defiantly immature (he largely neglected his two sons by his second wife), Abbey admitted that he loved to be in love. From age 17, when he left his home in Indiana, Pa., on his first cross-country hitchhike, until his death at 62, Abbey was a lustful wanderer. In particular he explored the Southwest, which claimed his heart and impelled his most passionate environmental activism. Although he never met Abbey, Cahalan became fascinated by the writer when he received an appointment to teach English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in Abbey's hometown. Cahalan conducted interviews with more than 100 people who knew the writer, and immersed himself in Abbey's published and unpublished work, including personal letters and journals. Indeed, the bibliography alone the most comprehensive one on Abbey to date is reason enough to buy this beautifully rendered, sensitive and revealing work. The Abbey Cahalan presents complex, contradictory andpassionate in his convictions fully deserves his larger-than-life status. 30 photos. (Nov. 1) Forecast: With blurbs from Robert Redford and Larry McMurtry, this should be popular with environmentalists and lovers of the American West. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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