Abbey's Road (Penguin, 1979)

Monday, September 8, 2008



Ed Abbey, roughneck author of the West, here mixes a personal narrative from adventures in Australia with ruminations and essays on the march of technocratic civilization and the death of the wilderness.

P. XVII - "Tom Wolfe's fabulous fables of American life complement nicely the current rash of full page and double page ads (tax deductible, no doubt) by corporate executives exhorting us to support tax 'reform' laws that will enable the rich to become still richer. As a sycophant to the wealthy and powerful, Tom Wolfe has no peer but William Buckley."

P. XIX - "A very good New York author once told me that whereas he was a small frog in a big puddle I was a big frog in a small puddle. How characteristic of the New Yorker to think of grim little Manhattan as the big puddle, of the American West as a small puddle."

P. XXIII - "We write in order to share, for one thing - to share ideas, discoveries, emotions. Alone, we are close to nothing. In prolonged solitude, as I've discovered, we come very close to nothingness. Too close for comfort. Through the art of language ... we communicate to others what would be intolerable to bear alone. We write as well in order to record the truth, to unfold the folded lie, to bear witness to the future of what we have known in the present, and to keep the record straight. We write, most importantly, to defend the diversity and freedom of humankind from those forces in our modern techno-industrial culture that would reduce us all, if we let them, to the status of things, objects, raw material, personnel; to the rank of subjects. One other truism. Writers write for the pleasure of it. For the sheer ecstasy of the creative moment, the creative act."

P. 35 - "For instance. Even the humblest Australian working bloke - a janitor, a shop clerk, a stenographer - gets at least a four-week vacation his or her first year on the job. With longer vacations later. The American custom of chaining working people to their jobs for fifty weeks out of every year seems to Australians barbarous, even cruel. As indeed it is."

P. 85-86 - "By bringing in our own food we will not be competing with the natives for something to eat, will not be helping to force up the price of local foods. The rico tourist may think, when he pays the extravagant bill at a Mexican restaurant, that he is at least contributing to the welfare of the workers in the local economy. False. A few will benefit, but the majority, deriving no income whatsoever from the tourist racket, find they are paying higher prices for their daily tortillas. 'Turismo' is always and everywhere a dubious, fraudulent, distasteful, and in the long run, degrading business, enriching a few, doing the rest more harm than good."

P. 123-125 - "The mad scientist, once only a comic figure in a specialized branch of fiction, has now come luridly to life in a hundred thousand forms. Together with his co-workers in big government, big industry, and the military, he dominates our lives. United, they will tyrannize the planet ... the busy men with white smocks and clipboards who are planning our future ... And you, of course, are never consulted on the matter ... the engineers and technicians have no interest in our personal preferences except as data to be tabulated and attitudes to be manipulated ... And in the evening, after a fruitful day in the nausea-gas lab, the innocent scientist goes home to the arms of his wife and children ... Political and military leaders win the publicity, but the fantastic crimes they have committed against humanity in this century were made possible for them by the achievements of our scientists and technologists."

P. 126 - "Einstein is reputed to have said, near the end of his career, that he would have rather been a great shoemaker than what he was, a great mathematician. We may take this statement as his confession of participatory guilt in the making of the modern nightmare."

P. 141 - "I believe humanity made a serious mistake when our ancestors gave up the hunting and gathering life for agriculture and towns. That's when they invented the slave, the serf, the master, the commissar, the bureaucrat, the capitalist and the five-star general ... Nothing but trouble and grief ever since, with a few comforts thrown in here and there, now and then, like bourbon and ice cubes and free beer on the Fourth of July, mainly to stretch out the misery."

P. 157 - "As for Smokey the Cop and all his friends - those jolly policemen of various types - state, federal, secret, private, uniformed, plainclothes, foreign and domestic - I stay away from them. I also avoid muggers, rapists, hijackers, terrorists, politicians, murderers and other lunatics. And for precisely the same reason."

P. 160 - "Nothing but the standard country-western stuff from a big city in the East called Nashville. Music to hammer out fenders by at the Shade Tree Body Shop. Music to vomit by after a shift in the copper pits. Take this job and shove it."

Posted by St. Drogo at 9:07 AM  

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