Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Down the River, by Edward Abbey

If you could combine Henry David Thoreau with George Carlin, you'd get someone like Edward Abbey. He is (was - he died in 1989) the funniest nature writer out there. I tried some of his fiction, such as his best-known novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, and didn't like it. His nonfiction, though, is insightful, descriptive, and hilarious.

Down the River is my favorite collection of Abbey's essays. In the first long essay, "Down the River with Henry Thoreau," Abbey and friends take a trip down the Green River on the eve of the 1980 Presidential election. Abbey brings along a copy of Thoreau's Walden. For the next 40-odd pages, he contemplates nature, muses about politics, ridicules his vegetarian friends, and simultaneously pays homage to and pokes fun at Henry David Thoreau.

In one amusing passage, Abbey imagines a marriage of two reclusive literary oddballs, Thoreau and Emily Dickinson:

EMILY (raising her pen): Henry, you haven't taken out the garbage.
HENRY (raising his flute): Take it out yourself.

Down the River is available here, and also as an audiobook: Down the River, by Edward Abbey


Anonymous ashok said...

That book sounds lovely! I've got to read up on more of your work.

I came in searching for posts about Emily Dickinson, but I think I'd better search around your blog more... seems like a lot of fun.

1:04 AM  
Blogger eric said...

Thanks, ashok. You might also enjoy the children's book Because I Could Not Stop My Bike by Karen Jo Shapiro. It's full of funny adaptations of famous poems, with nice illustrations. I think a couple Emily Dickinson poems are featured, including the title poem.

9:04 PM  

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