Sunday, July 11, 2010
Book of the Month
THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG by Edward Abbey
This book is one of my all time, favorite summertime reads. Being from the West, where this novel is set, I feel connected to this story and its characters. It is the strength of the characters that makes this book special. Edward Abbey does such a masterful job in creating nuanced, clever and original protagonists that I could read about them doing just about anything, let alone sabotaging the development of the American West.
The characters that make up the 'Gang' are the unkempt explosives expert, and former Green Beret, George Washington Hayduke; the polygamist Jack Mormon river guide, Seldom Seen Smith; the eccentric middle aged surgeon, Dr. Sarvis; and Dr. Sarvis' young assistant, Bonnie Abbzug. Once they get together, this group makes it their mission to "monkeywrench" any efforts to damage the western wilderness and desert landscape. The gang's protests are not in the vein of the Sierra Club or other activist groups. On the contrary, Hayduke and Co. eat a lot of red meat, own firearms, litter the roadside with empty beer cans and drive big cars. It is this contrast that makes the book so much fun, and the characters so compelling.
Abbey's knowledge of the west, and his own feelings give the book its tone. He writes with such depth about the landscape that it is almost impossible not to picture yourself there. I have spent time in some of the places that Abbey discusses, having grown up in Utah, but even if the desert of the Southwest is foreign to you, this book will paint quite a picture. The overall message, whether you agree with Abbey's methods or not, is to have respect for nature and reverence for the unspoiled beauty of the desert. This book has gone on to inspire many Eco-terrorist groups and the like, but I simply see it as an entertaining read that draws attention to real problems with a funny and compelling narrative. Don't feel like you need to go blow up Glen Canyon Dam after you get done reading it, just take a trip to the desert and see what all the fuss is about. You won't be disappointed.