Desert Cabal

Desert Cabal

A New Season in the Wilderness

Book - 2018
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"A grief-stricken, heart-hopeful, soul song to the American Desert."
--PAM HOUSTON, author of Deep Creek

As Ed Abbey's Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness turns fifty , its iconic author, who has inspired generations of rebel-rousing advocacy on behalf of the American West, is due for a tribute as well as a talking to. In Desert Cabal: A New Season in the Wilderness , Amy Irvine admires the man who influenced her life and work while challenging all that is dated--offensive, even--between the covers of Abbey's environmental classic. Irvine names and questions the "lone male" narrative--white and privileged as it is--that still has its boots planted firmly at the center of today's wilderness movement, even as she celebrates the lens through which Abbey taught so many to love the wild remains of the nation. From Abbey's quiet notion of solitude to Irvine's roaring cabal, the desert just got hotter, and its defenders more nuanced and numerous.

AMY IRVINE is a sixth-generation Utahn and longtime public lands activist. Her work has been published in Orion , Pacific Standard , High Desert Journal , Climbing , Triquarterly , and other publications. Her memoir, Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land , received the Orion Book Award, the Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award, and Colorado Book Award. Her essay "Spectral Light," which appeared in Orion and The Best American Science and Nature Writing , was a finalist for the Pen Award in Journalism, and her recent essay, "Conflagrations: Motherhood, Madness and a Planet on Fire" appeared among the 2017 Best American Essays' list of Notables. Irvine teaches in the Mountainview Low-Residency MFA Program of Southern New Hampshire University--in the White Mountains of New England. She lives and writes off the grid in southwest Colorado, just spitting distance from her Utah homeland.
Publisher: Salt Lake City, Utha : Torrey House Press ; Moab : Back of Beyond Books, 2018.
Edition: First Torrey House Press and Back of Beyond Books Edition.
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9781937226978
Branch Call Number: 814.54 IRVINE A
Characteristics: xiii, 89 pages ; 18 cm
Alternative Title: New season in the wilderness


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Erosion, and its Opposites

To bring it 'round to where I started, last year was the 50th anniversary of Ed Abbey's Desert Solitaire. Desert rats will be interested in knowing that the excellent Amy Irvine celebrated by writing Desert Cabal, in which she holds a one-sided conversation with Abbey (who died in 1989), brings him into the 21st century, and sets him straight. It's funny, serious, spot on, and overdue. (more)

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Mar 14, 2019

I had high hopes for this book, but was ultimately disappointed. Rather than a real discussion of the themes of Abbey's original Desert Solitaire classic, the book seems mostly to want to ride the coattails of its 50th anniversary and complain about the Trump administration's policies.

Although Desert Cabal follows Desert Solitaire with identically named chapters, I found little connection between the two. Sure, Irvine fairly calls out the inappropriateness of some of Abbey's language, but some of it is pulled from Abbey's other works. The most disappointing moment of Desert Cabal was her response to Desert Solitaire's quintessential chapter on industrial tourism. Irvine's corresponding chapter says basically says "I was a park ranger too" and then goes on to a two-page bullet list Trump administration policies harming our national parks and monuments.

I don't dispute the politics or Irvine's point of view, I just found little connection to the work it claims to respond to.


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