Celebrating Ed Abbey’s Birthday

categories: Cocktail Hour


Photographs courtesy of Milo McCowan and Lyman Hafe

Photographs courtesy of Milo McCowan and Lyman Hafe

Today is Ed Abbey’s birthday and Orion magazine is helping celebrate by running both an article and a blog of mine, both excerpts from my forthcoming book, All the Wild that Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and the American West.


Here’s an excerpt of Orion’s blog excerpt to give you a taste:


It is a tricky business being an Ed Abbey fan these days. We shift toward uneasy ground. Because Abbey is no longer just a writer whose books you read; he is a literary cult figure who has followers. The skeptical reader recoils: “Oh, I don’t want to be part of that.” But clearly Abbey lives, at least in the West. Fresh off the press the same week I visited Ken was an article in the Mountain Gazette, a journal in which Abbey himself often published, in which M. John Fayhee, the editor, took no small delight in mocking the Abbey fandom: “They wore clothing that looked like what Abbey wore. They drove vehicles that would meet with Abbey’s approval. They tossed beer cans out of truck windows because Abbey did.” This hit a little close to home. I thought back to my days in Eldorado Springs and remembered the cans of refried beans I ate, part of the official Ed Abbey diet. I fear I was, unbeknownst to myself, a sort of groupie.

It is easy to mock the more rampant Abbeyites. But the tendency to attach ourselves to writers is a not entirely unhealthy thing. Fandom may be laughable but it has its purposes. Stegner wrote of Bernard DeVoto that “father hunting had almost been a career for him.” He meant that DeVoto sought out older writers, and was eager to sit at their knees. He did this with Robert Frost, whom he first believed was “living proof that genius could be sane,” but whom he eventually broke from with the words: “You’re a good poet, Robert. But you’re a bad man.” Stegner in turn would look to DeVoto as a model, a father of sorts, though a father with the wild streak of an adolescent son. It is easy to dismiss these relationships as mere hero worship, as Oedipal. But what underlies it is something better, I think. A hunger for models. For possibilities. For how to be in the world.


To read the whole blog click On the Tricky Business of Being an Ed Abbey Fan

To read the Orion article click on Edward Abbey’s FBI file.

To pre-order the book click on All the Wild That Remains.

I know that’s a lot of clicking. Apologies.


My beautiful picture


  1. Dancing with the Ed…my ravens and I want this.

  2. Dave writes:

    Sage. Agreed. I noticed that too.

  3. Sage writes:

    Happy birthday, Ed… I am eager to read your book. Maybe I am off-base, but I wonder if Abbey didn’t end up reminding Stegner of his father? Although I would having meeting either men, I really would like to have met Stegner.