Happy Birthday, Edward Abbey

As Tom Chandler points out, today is the birthday of Edward Abbey, author of The Monkey Wrench Gang which Chandler calls “a groundbreaking novel about four people who sabotage development projects in the desert wilderness,” though I think it’s more about the frustration of the individual in the face of developers destroying our natural places in order to install yet another infestation of McMansions.

A sort of junior Monkey Wrench Gang is a wonderful book called A Heart to the Hawks by Don Moser (also from 1975 — influenced by MWG?), which I’ve written about here before. Sadly, it is (still) out of print, but you can still find used copies occasionally. It’s about a young boy in post-WWII Ohio who spends his free time in a small wood with a pond near his home that becomes threatened by development in the post-war building frenzy. While there are other coming-of-age themes (girls! with boobs!) in the novel, the boy learns a lot about monkey-wrenching and how maybe it’s not the best method of protest, and while I can’t always condone monkey-wrenching, there are other, more effective and less controversial methods of channeling the monkey-wrenching impulse into saving our wild places.

This book instilled in me a love of the outdoors and a desire to protect it as well as anything else in my life. I didn’t encounter Abbey’s books until I was an adult, but AHTTH served much the same purpose for me.