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Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside

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In this wise and lyrical book about landscapes of the desert and the mind, Edward Abbey guides us beyond the wall of the city and asphalt belting of superhighways to special pockets of wilderness that stretch from the interior of Alaska to the dry lands of Mexico.

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In this wise and lyrical book about landscapes of the desert and the mind, Edward Abbey guides us beyond the wall of the city and asphalt belting of superhighways to special pockets of wilderness that stretch from the interior of Alaska to the dry lands of Mexico.

30 review for Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside

  1. 4 out of 5

    John

    Outstanding fare from one of the modern age's greatest scribes on the American West. I snuck a peak at Wikipedia and agree with Larry McMurty's depiction of him as the "Thoreau of the American West". Having read Abbey's earlier pro-environmental novels ("The Monkey Wrench Gang", "Hayduke Lives") and travelogues on national parks and the Colorado River ("Desert Solitaire", "Down the River" some years back, I found this gem in the bargain bin at a library sale. Abbey is always dependendable. He wi Outstanding fare from one of the modern age's greatest scribes on the American West. I snuck a peak at Wikipedia and agree with Larry McMurty's depiction of him as the "Thoreau of the American West". Having read Abbey's earlier pro-environmental novels ("The Monkey Wrench Gang", "Hayduke Lives") and travelogues on national parks and the Colorado River ("Desert Solitaire", "Down the River" some years back, I found this gem in the bargain bin at a library sale. Abbey is always dependendable. He will move you with transcendent prose, describing canyons, rivers, wildlife and flowers like a pilgrim while denouncing the forces of progress. He will transport you there to the campfire under the stars, to the rapids and ravines amidst the rattlers and coyotes. You walk with him as he trudges through deserts worrying about his water supply and the accuracy of his maps. You share his outrage as he looks at the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell and the industrial tourism they have spawned. And you feel his euphoria at the end of his journey as he looks at the miracle of the desert wilderness.

  2. 5 out of 5

    WM Rine

    I've devoured most of Abbey's books over the years, but this is the one I return to most often. The first two pieces in this collection provide the best introduction to his work I can think of. "A Walk in the Desert Hills" describes a 115-mile walk across the Sonoran Desert, in search of adventure, wisdom, and water. "How It Was" describes his first incursions into the Four Corners and Glen Canyon area, before the pavement came. "How It Was" will make you understand what got Abbey intoxicated wi I've devoured most of Abbey's books over the years, but this is the one I return to most often. The first two pieces in this collection provide the best introduction to his work I can think of. "A Walk in the Desert Hills" describes a 115-mile walk across the Sonoran Desert, in search of adventure, wisdom, and water. "How It Was" describes his first incursions into the Four Corners and Glen Canyon area, before the pavement came. "How It Was" will make you understand what got Abbey intoxicated with the desert. "A Walk ..." tells why it was still more magical than bourbon even thirty years later. For these two pieces alone this is my favorite of Abbey's books. The remainder of the pieces in the book, which describe forays around the Colorado River region, the Sea of Cortez, and a rafting trip in northern Alaska, are pure, delightful gravy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Douglas

    Abbey--who died almost 30 years ago--trudges, climbs, hikes, slips along several desolate landscapes in this collection of essays that describe the American wilderness. He decries waste and pollution. He is cranky. But his prose is lyrical and direct. His path often meanders through the Southwest terrain he loves. Interestingly, he concludes the book recounting a camping expedition to Alaskas Brooks Range. Abbey's book made me want to fill up a large canteen with water and strike out for a dista Abbey--who died almost 30 years ago--trudges, climbs, hikes, slips along several desolate landscapes in this collection of essays that describe the American wilderness. He decries waste and pollution. He is cranky. But his prose is lyrical and direct. His path often meanders through the Southwest terrain he loves. Interestingly, he concludes the book recounting a camping expedition to Alaskas Brooks Range. Abbey's book made me want to fill up a large canteen with water and strike out for a distant desert landmark--possibly a deserted shack or rusted windmill, a range of purple mountains, a giant saguaro where I could find shade while I let my feet rest.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    Abbey writes so descriptively of the desert that I felt like I was trekking right along with him in the heat through various mountain ranges. Abbey likes the desert best when it’s empty and undisturbed and is extremely disdainful of tourism that encourages people to come in RVs on roads that dump you right at the feet of natural formations you used to have to hike to, while actually engaging with the land right around you. similarly, I felt his anger over the destruction of Glen Canyon, which wa Abbey writes so descriptively of the desert that I felt like I was trekking right along with him in the heat through various mountain ranges. Abbey likes the desert best when it’s empty and undisturbed and is extremely disdainful of tourism that encourages people to come in RVs on roads that dump you right at the feet of natural formations you used to have to hike to, while actually engaging with the land right around you. similarly, I felt his anger over the destruction of Glen Canyon, which was justified in part by claiming that more people would have more access to “recreation”, which he summarily takes down as bullshit. some people would probably describe him as arrogant because of attitudes like this but I share them to an extent, which is why I’m attracted to Abbey in the first place. the way in which he engages with the desert allows him to show us how beautiful and dangerous and vulnerable it is. as long as Abbey isn’t writing about women or Indians (he’s kind of a chauvinist— I almost put Desert Solitaire down because of some of his obnoxious views), I can get lost reading for hours.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eric North

    As always, Edward Abbey is incredibly passionate and observant toward the wild, whether it's the desert Southwest (most often) or the frigid Alaskan wilderness. His honesty and gun-point criticisms of "civilized" society are always refreshing, and consistently over the top; they are not entirely reasonable or gracious, but always hilarious, and somehow resonant within the heart of any thoughtful lover of nature. Apart from the few sections where he meticulously describes the characteristics of o As always, Edward Abbey is incredibly passionate and observant toward the wild, whether it's the desert Southwest (most often) or the frigid Alaskan wilderness. His honesty and gun-point criticisms of "civilized" society are always refreshing, and consistently over the top; they are not entirely reasonable or gracious, but always hilarious, and somehow resonant within the heart of any thoughtful lover of nature. Apart from the few sections where he meticulously describes the characteristics of obscure desert plants, I enjoyed these stories of travel and adventure. They make me want to be back there in the BLM campsites under the bulging red rock outside Canyonlands, sipping whiskey and swapping stories by the evening campfire under a twisted juniper.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Arthur

    Abby in this less-than-characteristically pugnacious collection of essays casts an introspective eye on the soul of the West and the hearts that long to love it. A trenchant commentary on the decay that cleverly markets itself as our moral society it remain as timely and topical a social critique as it was when it first printed decades ago. And as bit of travel literature for the mind and eye that yearn for the desert Abby slakes our thirst. I picked up this book after walking one of the canyons Abby in this less-than-characteristically pugnacious collection of essays casts an introspective eye on the soul of the West and the hearts that long to love it. A trenchant commentary on the decay that cleverly markets itself as our moral society it remain as timely and topical a social critique as it was when it first printed decades ago. And as bit of travel literature for the mind and eye that yearn for the desert Abby slakes our thirst. I picked up this book after walking one of the canyons he commits to page, his descriptions are simple and live up to the wild they describe. Yet to the unlearned foot and back his call is as unromantic and as inclusive as ever. He, never pedantic, lets the wilderness tug the reader to it and to protect it. I only gave it four stars because nothing blew up.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sean A.

    abbey is a great fuckin writer and if his ideas are taken seriously, a very dangerous writer. are his ideas taken seriously enough, judging by the undeniably sorry state of the environment//world at large i would guess not. still there is a lot of serious joy and frollick to be taken from his descriptions and natural insight. great read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    A man grows up with the desert and knows it well: its plants, its rocks, its water, its animals. He walks or drives--more often walks--through solitary places. In parts, the book reads like poetry. In other parts, the arrogance of the author pushes me away. But Abbey knows the desert and he shows the reader extrordianry images.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bob Sharpe

    This collection of short stories will delight anyone who loves Ed Abbey and the American Southwest. I've been to many of the places that serve as backdrops to these stories. There were some surprises. I was particularly pleased to read Abbey's account of time spent in the Guadalupe Mountains of Trans-Pecos Texas, for example. I also enjoyed "A Walk in the Desert Hills" because it read like something I'd do. "How It Was" and "Damnation of a Canyon" are compelling. Ed Abbey was my favorite outdoor This collection of short stories will delight anyone who loves Ed Abbey and the American Southwest. I've been to many of the places that serve as backdrops to these stories. There were some surprises. I was particularly pleased to read Abbey's account of time spent in the Guadalupe Mountains of Trans-Pecos Texas, for example. I also enjoyed "A Walk in the Desert Hills" because it read like something I'd do. "How It Was" and "Damnation of a Canyon" are compelling. Ed Abbey was my favorite outdoor writer and this book is treasure. The assault on wilderness continues pretty much unabated. There will be less tomorrow than there is today. Best to take Abbey's advice and get out in it, beyond the wall, while there's still time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Edward Nugent

    A great look at what made Abbey the voice of a new environmental and wilderness movement. The essays run the gamut from lyrical, philosophical, richly descriptive to cranky curmudgeon.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Madhusree

    He is a writer that appeals as much to my gut as my mind. Best thing about him is that he takes me back to the southwest physically (almost) with him as he writes about it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lynda

    I love the way Edward Abbey takes the reader along with him on his journeys. I really feel like I have experienced walking and sleeping and smelling and feeling the desert. Lovely

  13. 4 out of 5

    jeremy

    the last of abbey's books i had yet to read (with the exception of the out-of-print jonathan troy, forsaken even by the author himself), beyond the wall: essays from the outside is mostly a collection of pieces ed had previously published elsewhere (including national geographic, outside, and those often overpriced time-life books). beyond the wall is not as thematically or geographically coherent as his other works, as in this book he writes about locations as disparate as the guadalupe mountai the last of abbey's books i had yet to read (with the exception of the out-of-print jonathan troy, forsaken even by the author himself), beyond the wall: essays from the outside is mostly a collection of pieces ed had previously published elsewhere (including national geographic, outside, and those often overpriced time-life books). beyond the wall is not as thematically or geographically coherent as his other works, as in this book he writes about locations as disparate as the guadalupe mountains of west texas, glen canyon, the sea of cortez, and the alaskan back country, amongst others. abbey's writing, however, is as consistently strong and singular as it is in any of his other books. his ornery, insightful, sometimes tender, always witty style is evident on every page. to read abbey is to get as close as one can to the landscapes he describes without ever actually setting foot there. (cynics may point out the escapist tendencies inherent therein, although this is actually a testament to his literary prowess). we've had few american writers any finer or any more thoughtful than edward abbey. long live cactus ed. from the preface: beyond the wall of the unreal city, beyond the security fences topped with barbed wire and razor wire, beyond the asphalt belting of the superhighways, beyond the cemented banksides of our temporarily stopped and mutilated rivers, beyond the rage of lies that poisons the air, there is another world waiting for you. it is the old true world of deserts, the mountains, the forests, the islands, the shores, the open plains. go there. be there. walk gently and quietly deep within it. regarding tom robbins (from "gather at the river"): loaded with aspirin and more of jensen's horse medicine, i retire early to my tent, still not feeling too good. forgot to bring a towel, forgot the cigars, forgot to bring a book. so i borrow a paperback from maureen- something called "still life with woodpecker"? yes, that appears to be the title. glance at the blurbs, the summary on the back cover. "you didn't bring anything for grown-ups?" she has not. "did anybody?" i ask the group... i cough, i blow my nose, i read and finish "still life with woodpecker" and try to imagine what the typical tom robbins reader (and there are millions) must be like. well, first of all, she would be about twelve years old. she? no, it. it is about twelve years old, a thoroughly homogenized androgyne of neuter sex. it lives in california or north-central new mexico, also likes rod mckuen, studies kundalini yoga, loves stuffed koala bears, thinks the "whole earth catalog" is a book, believes bob "dylan" is a poet and neil diamond a musician, disdains politics as "too political" and... enough! the soul staggers, sinking deep into the swampy muskeg of pop kultur. put it this way: one spoonful of tom robbins's prose is enough to sicken the mind for hours. to read a tom robbins book from end to end is like chugalugging a quart of aunt jemima's pancake syrup.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Arthur

    Abbey is, hands down, a master of the language. Exact, even precise, yet poetic and highly evocative. Few authors can make me feel as thirsty as he can. Few authors can create such a desire for wide open spaces as he can. Few authors can make me as sad or as hopeful. It is still there, the wilderness, smaller than it once was but not gone. This is an older book, essays written largely in the time of the anti-wilderness polemics of James Watt sleeping with every corporate power lusting after oil Abbey is, hands down, a master of the language. Exact, even precise, yet poetic and highly evocative. Few authors can make me feel as thirsty as he can. Few authors can create such a desire for wide open spaces as he can. Few authors can make me as sad or as hopeful. It is still there, the wilderness, smaller than it once was but not gone. This is an older book, essays written largely in the time of the anti-wilderness polemics of James Watt sleeping with every corporate power lusting after oil (or whatever) and willing to pay nearly any price to get at it. But timeless and wild--and still scary. A powerfully moving and demanding book: it is still slipping. What are you going to do about it?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Spicer

    Not my favorite Abbey, but there were moments of greatness; kind of hit and miss, I'd say. These are essays about undeveloped landscapes in the American Southwest, how it feels to be a part of it, though only for a short time, how it feels to be outnumbered, or helpless to those who would rather see it tamed, made useful and "accessible." My favorites were when I could feel his pleasure as he hiked through dangerous and difficult stretches of desert. I liked his meditations on the monstrous and Not my favorite Abbey, but there were moments of greatness; kind of hit and miss, I'd say. These are essays about undeveloped landscapes in the American Southwest, how it feels to be a part of it, though only for a short time, how it feels to be outnumbered, or helpless to those who would rather see it tamed, made useful and "accessible." My favorites were when I could feel his pleasure as he hiked through dangerous and difficult stretches of desert. I liked his meditations on the monstrous and terrifying beauty of weirdly shaped rocks, fish hooked cactus, ghostly petroglyphs, and idiosyncratic desert old timers. It is a landscape of distortion, and he revels in it, and subverts classical ideas of beauty and freedom as he does.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stasia

    Gosh. Anyone who can translate such a humongous love of nature and a healthy cantankerism (heh--if I can make up that word;) about human activity into such well-written prose is a genius. Every time I read anything by Abbey I want to immediately set out on adventure, and this book is no exception. Awesome. One of my favorite things: "The planet is bigger than we ever imagined. The world is colder, more ancient, more strange and more mysterious than we had dreamed. And we puny human creatures wit Gosh. Anyone who can translate such a humongous love of nature and a healthy cantankerism (heh--if I can make up that word;) about human activity into such well-written prose is a genius. Every time I read anything by Abbey I want to immediately set out on adventure, and this book is no exception. Awesome. One of my favorite things: "The planet is bigger than we ever imagined. The world is colder, more ancient, more strange and more mysterious than we had dreamed. And we puny human creatures with our many tools and toys and fears and hopes make only one small leaf on the great efflorescing tree of life. "Too much. No equation however organic, no prose however royally purple, can bracket our world within the boundaries of mind."

  17. 4 out of 5

    KatieSuzanne

    This book took me forever to finish because I savored it. I'd read it on camping trips and road trips, matching the short story I picked with the landscape I was in. I read about his hike through the desert while I was camping out in the hot desert of Nevada and I didn't have to use my imagination at all but instead felt like I was in the story myself. I read about his river runs after my own river runs etc and the southern Utah ones after trips down there as well. I think I actually ended up re This book took me forever to finish because I savored it. I'd read it on camping trips and road trips, matching the short story I picked with the landscape I was in. I read about his hike through the desert while I was camping out in the hot desert of Nevada and I didn't have to use my imagination at all but instead felt like I was in the story myself. I read about his river runs after my own river runs etc and the southern Utah ones after trips down there as well. I think I actually ended up reading it through a few times and will probably continue to read it over constantly. This might be my favorite of his books of short stories so far.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kent

    A collection of great essays including The Damnation of a Canyon and a walk in the Desert Hills. This book is the source of the e-mail signature I've been using since the early 1990's. From the Introduction: "May your trails be dim, lonesome, stony, narrow, winding and only slightly uphill. May the wind bring rain for the slickrock potholes fourteen miles on the other side of yonder blue ridge. May God's dog serenade your campfire, may the rattlesnake and the screech owl amuse your reverie, may A collection of great essays including The Damnation of a Canyon and a walk in the Desert Hills. This book is the source of the e-mail signature I've been using since the early 1990's. From the Introduction: "May your trails be dim, lonesome, stony, narrow, winding and only slightly uphill. May the wind bring rain for the slickrock potholes fourteen miles on the other side of yonder blue ridge. May God's dog serenade your campfire, may the rattlesnake and the screech owl amuse your reverie, may the Great Sun dazzle your eyes by day and the Great Bear watch over you by night."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Bowers

    The essays of Mr. Abbey portray individualism in pursuit of simple living and simple enjoyment of the nature of the southwest deserts, the Colorado river, and above Alaska's Arctic Circle. His colorful and descriptive language lead one to a feeling of being present at the location and even drawing one in to the need to be part of such an adventure. He does so inspire the individual spirt and romanticism of individual exploration.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Irene Lapp Ryan

    "May your trails be dim, lonesome, stony, narrow, winding and only slightly uphill. May the wind bring rain for the slickrock potholes fourteen miles on the other side of yonder blue ridge. May God's dog serenade your campfire, may the rattlesnake and the screech owl amuse your reverie, May the Great Sun dazzle your eyes by day and the Great Bear watch over you by night" dear Edward Abbey

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    Edward Abbey is the environmentalist's apostle. His writings are epistles that invite you to go out and save all that's worth saving from the hands of evil tyrants who seek to "reclaim" the natural world for the betterment of Man. Abbey persuades us that we should really leave Nature alone and let it takes its course. Every word is a treasure.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gillian

    A spirited and convicting story teller who immortalized the yet untamed American Desert, Abbey realistically faces the environmental concerns of the country while capturing the purpose of pilgrimage -self-reliance.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Woody

    Great landscape descriptions combine with great adventures taken by Abbey in the American Southwest and Alaska to make this a fascinating read. This is a lesser-known but very good piece of work by the famous and at times acerbic champion of wild spaces.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    Edward Abbey can penetrate the soul by penetrating to world of outside the walls of civilization. His writing does that as he puts words to adventure and experience. His Thoreauvian attention to detail makes the experience come alive.

  25. 5 out of 5

    David

    The desert is an unforgiving, desolate, harsh, illuminating, miraculous place.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Mcclelion

    Classic Edward abbey...several classic lines from this book.... My favorite...."and he makes strong coffee, stout and vigorous, powerful enough to deconstipate a sand-impacted Egyptian."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    These are the places of my soul - dry, barren, and teeming with life

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    this book made me want to go to the desert

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Can't go wrong with cranky old Ed.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    A pleasing compilation of nonfiction stories from none other than grandpa Abbey. I love him more and more with every book I read.

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