Friday, November 8, 2013

A New Assignment...

Note: Now that the Lassen story is published, I can bring back this post that I wrote when the pitch for the Lassen story was made. I pulled it because it broadcast too much of the idea before I had even written the story.

At Kylie's high school, they have various caricatures of various writers drawn on the walls. This one of Thoreau look a little hairier than normal to me. He looks more like Ed Abbey after a 20 day river trip.

Speaking of Ed Abbey, I pitched a 3,000 word feature to the new editor of the CNR whereby I would climb Mount Harkness where  Ed Abbey worked as a fire lookout and wrote and mailed in his first draft of Desert Solitaire. I said I'd sleep up there and contemplate the importance of Ed Abbey, updated for modern times. The editor liked the concept and gave me the go ahead after negotiating the price of the project. So now I have a license to write a 3,000 word essay on Ed Abbey. And I haven't the foggiest idea what to write.

Well, I have to get over to Mount Harkness fairly soon, before the snow flies, and spend a night up there. Think I'll bring some Jim Beam. I won't have time to go until a week from this next Monday (September 9). The goal is to introduce Abbey to a new generation. I also will try and update him, as to how he would view some local issues such as plastic bag bans and  the building of 1,000 extra houses on some open space. The issues are complex from the localist of the local to the globalist of the global. Lots of material. I want to paint an accurate picture of Abbey, using some of his best lines and pithy statements. Should be fun.

I think I will borrow the style of doing it from Abbey himself. His Down the River with Henry Thoreau is inspiration enough. Imitation is the highest flattery a guy can give another writer.

In case you missed it, here is an Op/ED I had published last week.


  1. Kia ora Allan,
    Had an interesting chat with Don as we were walking in the hills regarding Ed. One of the things we wondered about was how he would react, if still alive and writing, in addition to his environmental stance, is the very much libertairian views he held in regards to gun control, immigration, government, nuclear weapons, misogyonistic tendencies, ect? I would like to believe he would have distanced himself from a lot of that with the emergence of the tea party, but he was a stubborn old coot as well. As much as I love his writings, he, like we all, certainly had his warts.

  2. Maybe, maybe not. I don't think that is the importance of Ed anyway. We want our heroes to be perfect. They aren't. The importance of Abbey, in my mind, is his critique of our economic system and the desire to save what is left of wilderness. His abandonment of Anthropocentrism, fairly early in the game, redeems him. His misogynistic tendencies (although he was defended by Terry Tempest Williams) and his alcoholism and his love of guns (although much of that is just marketing); I see a well read, liberal man concerned with justice for all---especially the non-human. He wrote a great essay against the MX missile when they were going to tear up Utah and Nevada to build that awful system (thank God it didn't get built). The immigration thing, I can't defend him, other than we do have too many people. But his last wife nearly married a Guatemalan who was disappeared in the war in the early 80's. Ed was on the side of justice and spoke out against our involvement in those wars (and also Vietnam). I see Ed as a much more progressive figure than probably most do.

  3. By the way, would have loved to be present for that chat. Did you have some whiskey too?

  4. Kia ora Allan,
    Still love the words of Ed, and Charles Bukowski for that matter, in spite of their flaws as men. Bukowski in particular was very clear in stating he never cared if anyone read his words or not, he simply had to write to live. When he made actual money from it he was astounded. As I wrote, Don and I had a conversation more around how Abbey may have, or not have evolved. I took Don and his lovely wife Lynn on a walk up a valley in the Tararua ranges not far my home. The next day Don and I headed into the Ruahine and walked an hour to a hut, dumped our gear, then headed up to the open tops over the valley, returning to the hut early in the evening for the night. There we were joined by another friend of mine who had been out hunting. The three of us did enjoy a few wee drams and some fine conversation followed by venison steaks and a nice fire. Very cool to meet him, and yes, you would have fit in nicely I am quite sure. Take care mate.