Confessions of a Barbarian

Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey, 1951 - 1989

by Edward Abbey


SKU: 9781555662870
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Edited by David Peterson

Few have cared more about American wilderness than the irascible Cactus Ed. Author of eco-classics such as The Monkey Wrench Gang and Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey reveals all his rough-hewn edges and passionate beliefs in this witty, outspoken, maddening, and sometimes brilliant selection of journal entries that takes the writer from his early years as a park ranger and would-be literary author up to his death in 1989. This new edition features an interview in which Abbey speaks candidly about his own work, his approach to writing, and his writing mechanics as well. Also included is a detailed index and original sketches made by Abbey himself.

“Notorious writer Abbey kept a journal from the age of 19 until a few days before his death in 1989. Selected and edited by friend and environmental writer Petersen, the entries included here give valuable insight into an incredibly complex man. Beginning in Europe and skipping around the desert Southwest, the journals follow the enigmatic, opinionated Abbey as he creates many enemies and legion of fans over the course of a lifetime. Credited with originating the concept of eco-terrorism in defense of his beloved Western wilderness, Abbey emerges as a misunderstood loner who needed a delicate balance of companionship and freedom to exist. Highlights include candid thoughts on his peers, ongoing feuds with reviewers, and original drawings by Abbey himself. Petersen adds helpful insights and bracketed comments. Essential for all nature, regional, and literary biography collections.”

—Library Journal

“Beatnik turned major American essayist, ecologist in advance of the modern ecological movement, anarchist ‘in favor of settling the African problem by violent revolution, if at all possible,’ and self-proclaimed Communist, Abbey is both compelling and infuriating, more so in his essays than the fiction he considered his serious work. His journals show that he didn’t so much find a voice as mature the one he always had. . . . A must for every library with serious holdings in the literature of the Southwest.”


“Ending with an entry written 12 days before his 1989 death at age 60, the diaries of the late environmentalist and novelist are adolescent in spirit, with all the virtues and vices that word implies. . . . Though he traveled over the world, he finds his spiritual home in the American Southwest, and some of his most moving writing here pays lush homage to the austere landscape or lashes out at those poised to destroy it.”

Publishers Weekly

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The Author

Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey, (born January 29, 1927, IndianaPennsylvania, U.S.—died March 14, 1989, near Tucson[now in Tucson], Arizona), American writer whose works, set primarily in the southwestern United States, reflect an uncompromising environmentalist philosophy. The son of a Pennsylvania farmer, Abbey earned a B.A. (1951) and an M.A. (1956) at the University of New Mexico. He subsequently worked as a park ranger and fire lookout for the National Park Service in the southwest, developing an intimacy with the region’s landscape that was to shape his writing career. Central to this experience was the perspective it afforded on the human presence in the natural environment. Abbey observed both the remnants of ancient Indian cultures and the encroachment of consumer civilization. His book Desert Solitaire (1968), considered by many to be his best, is an extended meditation on the sublime and forbidding wilderness of southeastern Utah and the human incursions into it. He husbanded his extensive knowledge of the region, admitting “I have written much about a good many places. But the best places of all I have never mentioned.” Abbey’s novel The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975) recounts the exploits of a band of guerrilla environmentalists; both it and Desert Solitaire became handbooks of the environmental movement. The strain of cynicism that runs through much of Abbey’s writing is leavened by a bracing prose style and mischievous wit. His advice was unorthodox: “This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and animals. Stand up for the stupid and crazy. Take your hat off to no man.” And his opinions pithy: “Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners.” His appreciation for the natural and distrust of machines and the modern state resonated through the 1960s, ’70s, and beyond. After his death, he was buried as he had requested: in a sleeping bag, without embalming fluid or casket. His body was surreptitiously interred in an unmarked desert grave somewhere in Arizona. Among his many other works are The Brave Cowboy (1958), Slickrock (1971), Abbey’s Road (1979), and The Fool’s Progress (1988). Hayduke Lives!, a sequel to The Monkey Wrench Gang, was published posthumously in 1990. Confessions of a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey, 1951–1989, edited by David Petersen, was published in 1994. (from