Saturday, April 14, 2007

Never safe from critics, even beyond the grave


Where have you gone, Edward Abbey? | Salon Books

Yes, Philip Conners shares Ed's old habit of roosting in high places overlooking vast acreages of combustible forests in New Mexico. You'd think he would have developed some understanding of the Bard of the Desert. But then, Conners writes about books and writers, and only recently immigrated from the canyon country of New York to Abbey country.

Being a young lad from the East, Conners apparently was not around for the environmental activism of the 70s and 80s that both inspired Ed's stories and claimed him as its chief literary spokesman. Conners pans Ed's favorites: Good News as "an apocalyptic comedy," and Black Sun as "a saccharine love story," demonstrating his complete ignorance of Ed's life and work. If Ed were alive now, he'd turn over in his grave.

I suspect Conners intended his review to be complimentary, from his perspective as a new resident of the West. Ironically, he succeeded in underlying Ed's long battle with Eastern literary critics who had no way to understand the basis of Ed's writing in place, coming from his experience of the West as the core of his social and political philosophy.

"A critic is to an author as a fungus is to an oak."