categories: Cocktail Hour
As western rivers dry up and western land cracks from aridity, the voices of Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey have never been more important. At a time of fires and record low snowpack in the Sierras, with water beginning to be seen as the lifeblood it is, Stegner and Abbey can teach us that this has always been the reality of the West, not the myth we have been taught to believe in. They can show us how our way of inhabiting the region has never been sustainable, that today’s fracking is yesterday’s mining, and they can help us how the dots of the West have always connected: from aridity to the snowpack to water conservation to mining to a landscape unlike any other to an attitude toward that landscape that veers wildly from loving to rapacious. With climate change making a historically dry climate even drier, never has it been more vital to listen to what Abbey and Stegner have to tell us.
Those voices can be heard, loud and clear, in my new book about Abbey and Stegner, All the Wild that Remains. Last week The Christian Science Monitor came out with a top ten list and declared All the Wild That Remains their top book for April, joining Outside Magazine, Publishers’ Weekly and Kirkus (both starred reviews), Amazon, Powells and others in declaring it one of the most important books coming out this spring.
It is a book that both takes the long view of the land, and of the importance of having deep conversations with our literary ancestors, and that speaks to the crisis that is occurring right now. Stegner and Abbey put what is happening in historical perspective, but they were not detached scholars who sat back in a crisis. They both acted. They understood the land they loved, sure, but also fought for it. I hope my book inspires you to join in that fight, but also to think your way toward a deeper understanding of the connections in today’s world.
Please consider picking it up and giving it a read. For me Abbey was a gateway drug to Stegner. A great result for this book would be if for some it proved a gateway drug to both of these important and sometimes overlooked authors.
Some nice things people have said so far about:
ALL THE WILD THAT REMAINS
W.W. Norton April 2015
“These revelations, and Gessner’s subtle humor, make for an absorbing read. Abbey’s and Stegner’s lives, Gessner says, ‘are creative possibilities for living a life both good and wild.’ That’s something that many in the West still seek–and what makes this book such a great read for anyone living there.”—Outside magazine http://www.outsideonline.com/1962281/new-reads-following-two-iconic-authors-west
The Christian Science Monitor picks All the Wild as their number one book of April. They write “Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey, two of America’s finest writers, were also staunch environmentalists and devoted advocates of the American West. In this engaging book, nature writer David Gessner follows in the tracks of both men, providing strong portraits of them as writers and as human beings (with sharply opposing characters and lifestyles) even as he pays moving tribute to the land they so deeply loved.” http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/2015/0403/10-best-books-of-April-the-Monitor-s-picks/All-the-Wild-that-Remains-by-David-Gessner
“Gessner writes with a vividness that brings the serious ecological issues and the beauty of the land into to sharp relief. This urgent and engrossing work of journalism is sure to raise ecological awareness and steer readers to books by the authors whom it references.”—Publishers’ Weekly. Starred Review. Here’s the full review: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-393-08999-8
“Stegner and Abbey ‘are two who have lighted my way,’ nature writer Wendell Berry admitted. They have lighted the way for Gessner, as well, as he conveys in this graceful, insightful homage to their work and to the region they loved.”—Kirkus Review (Starred Review)
“This engaging book provides an intimate look at Edward Abbey (1927–89) and Wallace Stegner (1909–93), two of America’s finest authors, both of whom chafed at being pigeonholed as regional writers. Certainly their fond, passionate focus was the American West, but there is much universality in their concerns. Gessner (Return of the Osprey) traveled to places they haunted, read all he could of their writings, and spoke with people who knew them well. His smooth, literate text is enhanced by photographs of Stegner and Abbey as well as chapter notes that read well. Stegner authored 46 works, including 13 novels, and won a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Abbey wrote 28 books, was a Fulbright Scholar at Edinburgh University, and may be best known for his book Desert Solitaire, which is often said to be as worthy as Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Stegner, clean cut, traditional, with a PhD, and Abbey, an uncompromising anarchist and atheist with a 1960s-ish appearance and lifestyle, provide rich grist for Gessner’s mill, which he fully exploits for the benefit of any reader. Gessner himself has penned nine books. All three authors qualify as important environmentalists and writers. VERDICT Highly recommended for everyone interested in literature, environmentalism, and the American West.”—Library Journal
ATWTR is now an editor’s pick at Amazon and a staff pick at Powell’s where Shawn writes: “All the Wild That Remains is a fascinating portrait of the American West told through the lives of two of its most famous writers, Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner. This book champions their unique styles and will make you want to read (or reread) all of their work. It will also inspire you to get your car and head out on an extended road trip through this beautiful western landscape.”