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J A C K L O E F F L E R Santa Fe, New Mexico EdwardAbbey,Anarchism and the Environment One time, Ed Abbey and I were talking about an upcoming elec­ tion. Ed said to me, “I’m a registered anarchist.” I asked him, “How long have you been a registered anarchist?” Ed said “Oh, about 5000 years. In the realm of ideal politics, I’m some sort of an agrarian, barefoot wilderness eco-freak anarchist. One of my favorite thinkers is Prince Kropotkin. Another is Henry Thoreau.” Professionally, Abbey’s greatest wish was to be regarded as a fine writer, a literary man. Many’s the time Abbey confided that he felt that New York publishers thought he’d been born on the wrong side of the Hudson. But after due consideration, he concluded that the wrong side was actually the right side—and that New York writers were a boring lot, in the main. Most of them were “toadies” and “sycophants,” “brownnosers ” and “ass-kissers.”What most of them write about has little to do with reality. Rather, they spread a patina of anthropomorphism across the fabric of their lives in the dim hope that something might register as meaningful. Sez Ed, “How can you get excited about someone named Rabbit, for Chrissake?” Good question. A major principle of Edward Abbey’s character was to follow the truth no matter where it leads. This has to be a part of the longterm Abbey heritage. I know this was inherent in both his parents. His father, who passed away earlier this year [1992], had been something of a political iconoclast in his youth, proud of having met Eugene Debs, a quoter of Walt Whitman, and a crack shot to boot. He was a Pennsylva­ nia woodcutter still active with his axe and saw four months before he died at the age ofninety-one. He was self-sufficientand self-directed and he influenced Abbey enormously.© Jack Loeffler, 1992. This paper was delivered before the Western Literature Association, October 8, 1992, in Reno, Nevada. 44 WesternAmerican Literature Abbey’s mother was a tiny lady, sharp ofwit, a fine musician, and a talented writer whose journals revealed that her son, Ned, as he was known, had already turned cantankerous at the age of four years!! Ed Abbey was my best friend, el compañero de mi vida. We went on dozens ofcamping trips together and hiked thousands ofmiles carrying on a conversation that lasted for decades. We kept no secrets from each other and we talked about anything and everything that either of us could think of. After four of us carried him deep into the wilderness desert to bury him, there was plenty oftime to ruminate on the nature of my friend, and the meaning of his life. Nearly two years after his death, the folks at Crown Publishers asked me if I would be interested in doing a book about Ed. At first I didn’t want to. Ed was my friend, not a subject for a book by me. But I remembered that on at least three occasions Ed had suggested that I be his “chronicler” as he put it. Since 1982, he and I both knew the odds favored my outlasting him. Itwas that summer that he keeled over in my living room and the doctors who treated him at the hospital in Santa Fe erroneously told him he would die in two months. Ed turned to me and said, “At least I don’t have to floss anymore.” So I agreed to write his biography. In order to do a properjob of it, I’ve tried my best to remember all of our conversations together. I’ve re­ read all ofEd’sbooks and pored over hisjournals prying as deep into his mind as I can. I spent Ed’ssixty-second birthday with him in Tucson. He told me then, as he had on the previous Thanksgiving and Christmas, that he wasn’t going to last much longer. His greatest hope was that he could finish writing Hayduke Lives! before he died. He loaded me up with his books making sure that I had extra copies...


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