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Hilarious and inspiring, if you can take it..., May 21, 2000

The Monkey Wrench Gang (P.S.)
...which many can't do. Abbey is a fiercely skillful writer who can punch you right in the mouth with words when he wants to. This is a very unconventional novel, with writing and characterization that border on the surreal, but Abbey knows his craft. The Dream Garden Press edition has a chapter he was forced to leave out of the trade edition, and it borders on the nightmarish. He is unflinching in his criticisms and unyielding in his devotions, and The Monkey Wrench Gang is a wonderful novel. I reread it every couple of years and enjoy it every time. It's quite possible that you will hate this book and what it stands for, as well as the rest of Abbey's writings. It's also quite possible that that was Abbey's intention from the very start. Ed Abbey doesn't pander or beg. He lays it on the line and dares you to come along for the ride. And Monkey Wrench is one great ride. No, it isn't Proust. Yes, Mormons and Indians and most women may be offended. That's tough...

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Edward Abbey (1927-1989) is a touchstone for anyone involved in the radical environmental movement. Abbey, who looks like the product of a union between William James and John Muir, churned out numerous books and essays concerning the American Southwest and its wondrous natural beauty. His best known work is this novel, "The Monkey Wrench Gang," a fictional tale about four nature lovers who decide to wage relentless war against America's manic desire to spread the industrial system into every corner of the country. Abbey apparently based some of the characters in the book on real people he knew during his life in the boonies. It is important to remember this while you read the book because it will scare the heck out of you that people like this actually exist.
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This is the first fiction by Abbey that I've read. That it almost reads like a true story largely stems from the keen sense and accurate knowledge of Colorado Plateau geography that Abbey had. His description of the gnarled and surreal landscape---and the interplay of light, sky, and rock---especially of the Canyonlands area of Utah, is so vivid that it harks back to his compulsively readable nonfiction work in "Abbey's Road", "Down the River", "One Life at a Time, Please", and the like. Readers who fancy this setting will benefit from the author's expert familiarity with the Southwest.
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...which many can't do. Abbey is a fiercely skillful writer who can punch you right in the mouth with words when he wants to. This is a very unconventional novel, with writing and characterization that border on the surreal, but Abbey knows his craft. The Dream Garden Press edition has a chapter he was forced to leave out of the trade edition, and it borders on the nightmarish. He is unflinching in his criticisms and unyielding in his devotions, and The Monkey Wrench Gang is a wonderful novel. I reread it every couple of years and enjoy it every time. It's quite possible that you will hate this book and what it stands for, as well as the rest of Abbey's writings. It's also quite possible that that was Abbey's intention from the very start. Ed Abbey doesn't pander or beg. He lays it on the line and dares you to come along for the ride. And Monkey Wrench is one great ride. No, it isn't Proust. Yes, Mormons and Indians and most women may be offended. That's tough...
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