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Beyond Ecology

In response to:

The Desert Anarchist from the August 18, 1988 issue

To the Editors:

Mr. Bill McKibben is a fine young man and a very good writer and I wish, in reviewing some of my books [NYR, August 18], he had read them first. By seizing on one narrow strain in my writing and ignoring the other 90 percent, he misrepresents the whole and mythologizes my life. It’s true that twenty years ago I wrote some essays in what is now called “deep ecology,” but even then I was interested in and wrote about many other things. It’s also true that, back in the 40s and 50s, I spent considerable time exploring the mountains, forests, canyons and rivers of the American West—but I also earned an MA in philosophy, traveled in Europe, lived in Greater New York (Hoboken), and worked not only as a forest ranger but also as a welfare investigator, factory hand, dude wrangler, etc. At present I am married, have two small children, work halftime as a college professor, live in a nice little suburban house, drive a 1975 red Eldorado convertible, etc., a typical petit bourgeois. Anyhow, back to the point, those books I wrote are more complicated than Mr. McKibben says—and he knows it. I have yet to read a review of any of my books, anywhere, that I could not have written much better myself.

Edward Abbey

Oracle, Arizona

Bill McKibben replies:

I have read Mr. Edward Abbey’s books, each and every one, including the new novel, A Fool’s Progress, which Henry Holt will publish in October. It is a fine book, maybe his best, and it deals a little more with suburban life than did the essays I discussed in my review (though the hero totes guns, camps out constantly, and drives an aging pickup, not a 1975 red Eldorado convertible). At any rate, while I consider Mr. Edward Abbey a fine late-middle-aged man, I see no reason to temper my description of him, particularly the words cantankerous and cranky.

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