The Monkey Wrench Gang

The Monkey Wrench Gang

by Edward Abbey

Lippincott 1975

Boy am I ever sorry I missed this guy when he was still alive and writing this stuff. This is the kind of stuff that you read and then can’t wait till the author finishes up his next project so you can gobble that up too. Damn. He’s gone. The Monkey Wrench Gang is a fictional tale of the doings of four brave souls in the desert southwest who have had enough with the rampant destruction of the local environment by developers, power companies, logging concerns, hip-pocket politicians, and all the rest. Their plan is a simple one. Protect and avenge the raped landscape by attacking the mechanical instrumentalities that perform the rape. Strike the beast directly in its throbbing steel heart. Throw a monkey wrench into the works. Much follows from this deceptively simple premise.

But it’s not really fictional at all. Everything in the book speaks loud and clear to issues vital for the maintenance of free, wild, and clean, deserts, canyonlands, and wide open spaces that with each passing year become a little less wide, open, and spacious. Damn. It’s going. The author’s own remarks on the copyright page suffice: This book, though fictional in form, is based strictly on historical fact. Everything in it is real and actually happened. And it all began just one year from today. Despite the serious undertone that pervades this book, it’s neither preachy nor heavy. Abbey writes with a preternatural transparency that causes you to immediately forget that you are actually reading something and instead become intimately involved in the lives of these all-too-believable protagonists. It’s a funny, sad, suspenseful, passionate read.

The passage of over twenty years has dimmed none of the book’s impact. If anything, it has been enhanced. I cringe to think what has become of the other-worldly locales so lovingly limned in this book. I’ve never been to the wild country of northern Arizona and southern Utah, but after reading this I can see it all in my mind’s eye. And I’ve fallen in love with it. Having never laid eyes upon it. Imagine that. Read this book. Who knows, maybe it can still be bought somewhere. But watch out. Try to avoid becoming horribly love-struck with the land. My heart aches to take a long hike under the blistering sun among The Fins. Or maybe The Maze. But I know, down inside, that to do so only hastens the destruction of this terrifyingly beautiful place. One more anthropoid arriving in a chrome capsule, spewing a toxic cloud of pollutants, consuming yet more power from the voracious grid, casting off the flotsam and jetsam of prepackaged life. Just another small time rapist.

The place doesn’t need me. In fact, it’s much better off without me. You too. Better we love it from afar, keeping the sweet mysteries intact. Thank you Edward Abbey. May you and your land rest in peace.

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