DESERT CABAL: A New Season in the Wilderness
by Amy Irvine
AMY IRVINE is a sixth-generation Utahn and long-time public lands activist. Her memoir, Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land, received the Orion Book Award, the Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award, and the Colorado Book Award. Irvine teaches in the MFA program of Southern New Hampshire University. She lives and writes off the grid in southwest Colorado, just spitting distance from her Utah homeland.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness turns fifty, its iconic author, who has inspired generations of rebel-rousing advocacy on behalf of the American West, is due for a tribute as well as a talking to. In Desert Cabal: A New Season in the Wilderness, Amy Irvine admires the man who influenced her life and work while challenging all that is dated—offensive, even—between the covers of Abbey’s environmental classic. From Abbey’s quiet notion of solitude to Irvine’s roaring cabal, the desert just got hotter, and its defenders more nuanced and numerous.
November 2018 | Nonfiction essays | 978-1-937226-97-8 | 98 pp | $11.95
PRAISE FOR DESERT CABAL
“Amy Irvine is Ed Abbey’s underworld, her roots reaching into the dark, hidden water. In a powerful, dreamlike series of essays, she lays Desert Solitaire bare, looking back at the man who wrote the book and the desert left behind. This stream of consciousness, this conversation, this broadside is an alternate version of Abbey’s country. It is another voice in the wilderness.”—CRAIG CHILDS, author of Atlas of a Lost World: Travels in Ice Age America
“If there wasn’t a woman in Ed Abbey’s trailer in Arches back in the 1950’s, there is one now. And she has a room and a voice of her own.”
—KEN SANDERS, Ken Sanders Rare Books
"Spirited, fast-paced, passionate, at once humorous and provocative, and all rendered in gorgeous prose. ...a celebration of public lands and a heartfelt work of resistance..."
—HIGH DESERT JOURNAL
"A slim volume reminiscent of the mass–market paperback copies of Desert Solitaire that so many of us have stuffed into a dusty backpack or stowed in the glove compartment on national park road trips… Irvine tells Abbey about climate change, fossil fuel dependence, and the environmental pickle in which we've found ourselves."
"Abbey’s self-claimed country, Irvine says, is at risk for exactly the reasons he said it would be: greed, gasoline, and a gaping well of apathy. Preserving wilderness is even more important now than it was half a century ago, but the stakes aren’t as simple as he set them out to be. Desert Cabal has riled up some Abbey fans, but that’s exactly what makes it an important read."
"A lyrical and raw conversation between Irvine and Abbey that is part tribute, part memoir, and part polemic. It’ll get you thinking about the state of the desert, the fate of the wilderness movement and the actions we all need to take to save the places we love (including leaving them alone)."
“From Abbey’s first morning in the desert to his tale of a snake that guarded his campsite, Irvine questions and compares their experiences, including their failed marriages.”
—THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
“This iconoclastic inner discussion with her predecessor, Abbey, is fascinating—wherein Irvine challenges Abbey to consider his myopic, privileged perspective without failing in her deference for his attempt to raise consciousness of an entire generation prior.”
"The Abbey whom Irvine is talking to is neither the author himself nor a corpse; he's a literary ghost, one that has been living inside herself ever since she fell for his writing."
“Fierce and clear…Irvine’s book effectively confronts the ritual of veneration and brings the reader closer to appreciating Abbey’s work in a more constructive, relevant and productive frame than what has been allowed in the last five decades.”
“A lament for a cracked, if not completely fallen, idol…a plea for an endangered dream. Written on the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Desert Solitaire, Desert Cabal stakes out a new philosophy for the movement Abbey’s book ushered in.”
“No matter your feelings about Edward Abbey or your relationship with Desert Solitaire, Irvine’s Desert Cabal adds necessary depth to the dialogue. Many of us have been waiting years for that.”
“The news Irvine breaks graveside is that the world, and specifically ‘Abbey’s country,’ has changed… and there’s no telling where [Abbey’s] sentiments would place him in a landscape that now includes Standing Rock and Black Lives Matter, a generation of female activists and the #MeToo movement.”
—SANTA FE REPORTER
“A lyrical, raw and vulnerable conversation.”
—TELLURIDE DAILY PLANET
“At once intimate and expansive…a reminder that individuals, even titans like Abbey, can only do so much to save the ‘best places.’ It really does take a village (or cabal).”
—TELLURIDE INSIDE AND OUT
“Irvine gradually builds to a ringing conclusion, stating simply and clearly that wilderness lovers ‘need intimacy with people every bit as much as with place’ and that ‘going it alone is a failure of contribution and compassion.’”
"While an admirer of Abbey, Irvine illuminates his dated attitudes as she writes a love letter to the Utah desert. This brief series of essays will be enjoyed by those who treasure the desert, environmental activists, and fans of Desert Solitaire."
“A grief-stricken, heart-hopeful, soul song to the American Desert, a wail, a keening, a rant, a scolding, a tumult, a prayer, an aria, and a call to action. Amy Irvine implores us to trade in our solitude for solidarity, to recognize ourselves in each other and in the places we love, so that we might come together to save them. In this time of all out war being waged on America’s Public Lands, I'm glad she’s on my side.”
—PAM HOUSTON, author of Contents May Have Shifted
“Half riot and half celebration, this is a roadmap through a crisis that neither Abbey nor any of us imagined.”
—MARK SUNDEEN, author of The Man Who Quit Money and The Unsettlers
“If you’ve ever talked back to the canonical tomes of the environmental movement, this is a book for you. Here are the women, the people, the children, and the intimate dangers those old books so frequently erased. Here is a new and necessary ethic that might help us more openly love the land and the many living beings who share it. I found myself nodding—Yes! Yes! Thank you!—on nearly every page of Desert Cabal.”
—CAMILLE T. DUNGY, author of Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood and History and editor of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry
“Amy Irvine lays bare the mostly bleached bones of Desert Solitaire fifty years hence. She shows an uncanny ability to scrape the joints clean and dig deep into the marrow to find truth. Desert Cabal will make you squirm, yet reminds us that Edward Abbey was only human, that our human psyche continues to evolve as does our understanding of life and nature.”
—ANDY NETTELL, proprietor of Back of Beyond Books
“For those of us who wanted to be Bonnie Abzug, Amy Irvine is a kindred spirit. And she's right; times have changed, Mr. Abbey; we're negotiating tricky territory in the world of environmental rights, especially in the West. Who's right? Who's left? What will we have left when the dust settles? Desert Cabal is brutally honest, which is just exactly what we need right now.”
—ANNE HOLMAN, The King's English Bookshop