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A r t is t r y o f H u n g e r : D e s ir e a n d A p p e tite in D e s e r t S o l it a ir e J o y K e n n e d y Simply breathing, in a place like this, arouses the appetite. —Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire O The desert, according to Edward Abbey in Desert Solitaire, is a landscape of “consummation” and “fulfillment”: predator feeds on prey, plant growth clings tenaciously in dry crevices, and human observers must always be aware of their own survival (113). In Desert Solitaire Abbey describes literal hunger, like his ravenous pains on the cow trail with Roy Scobie, and also uses a metaphorical language of hunger to describe place and desire. Throughout his narrative, food images surface unexpectedly in depictions of landscape. Appetite and desire become intertwined in a synesthesia of awareness. Although Robert Ridges, Snake drum. His gourd art is sprinkled throughout this essay. J O Y K E N N E D Y 4 0 3 Abbey remarks that he wants to describe the desert without the bur­ dens of personification and metaphor, his best successes are by using culturally determined metaphors. Evening light colors canyon walls in hues of “honey” and “whiskey” (200). The sun sets like a “celestial pizza [pie]” (299). The love for wilderness, Abbey tells us, is “a hunger for what is always beyond reach” (190). While many critics have con­ centrated on this unique desire for landscape, very few, if any, have looked at Abbey’s food metaphors coupled with this hunger for place. These images help propel Abbey’s idea of desire for landscape. Surprisingly, they also illustrate new additions to the multiple para­ doxes of Desert Solitaire. There are three aspects of food imagery that can be observed in Desert Solitaire, and all exemplify the role of duality and paradox that Abbey establishes in the text: (1) food metaphors in descriptions of the desert, (2) appetite and desire for place, (3) Abbey’s appetite. Using such culturally determined metaphors as mashed potato clouds is the very sort of human-focused image that Abbey claimed he wanted to avoid. In the introduction he affirms, “In recording my impressions of the natural scene I have striven above all for accuracy.” And later he explains, “I want to be able to look at and into a juniper tree ... and see it as it is in itself, devoid of all humanly ascribed qual­ ities” (6). A reliance then on food metaphors (which often echo civi­ lization in pizza pie sunsets and hamburger rocks) illuminates the paradox of his language and representation. Expressing desire for place, Abbey uses the word “hunger.” Yet such wording leads to a paradox, for hunger signals a desire for con­ summation. Overzealous consumption of the land by industrial tourism is what Abbey warns against. Such images of eating arc also turned inward to delineate self-destruction. Abbey angrily declares that if he and Ralph Newcomb thought about the damming of the Colorado for too long, “we’d be eating our hearts,” and later he tells us that a person’s desire to romanticize a place should be “ground up, cooked,” and “consumed” (210, 273, 273). Abbey includes descriptions of what he ate and what he wanted to eat. In his details (and recipes from Down the River) his word choice varies from the crude to that of the epicurean gourmet’s, laced with smatterings of French. Such shifts and duality- in vocabulary are attached to the larger question that readers have always asked about the persona in Desert Solitaire'. Who is talking? Is it “Cactus Ed,” an invented man of appetite and gusto, or the actual Edward Abbey, the philosophical satirist? 4 0 4 WAL 3 8 . 4 W i n t e r 2 0 0 4 F o o d Me t a p h o r s in D e s c r i p t i o n s o f t h e D e s e r t In Desert Solitaire hunger and body become vivid extensions of the...


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pp. 402-416
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