From _The Writer’s Almanac_, a daily newsletter from Minnesota Public Radio:
Literary and Historical Notes:
It’s the birthday of novelist and essayist Edward Abbey, born in Indiana, Pennsylvania (1927). He’s best known for his novel The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975), about a gang of four “environmental warriors” who liberate sections of the Utah and New Mexico wilderness through sabotage. When he was seventeen years old, he saw the desert for the first time as he hitchhiked and rode the rails across the country. He returned to the East to work for a short time as a caseworker in a welfare office, but then he went back to the Southwest to work as a fire lookout and ranger in Arches National Park. He worked there for three years, and turned the experience into the book Desert Solitaire (1968).
Desert Solitaire begins: “This is the most beautiful place on earth. There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary. A houseboat in Kashmir, a view down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, a gray gothic farmhouse two stories high at the end of a red dog road in the Allegheny Mountains, a cabin on the shore of a blue lake in spruce and fir country, a greasy alley near the Hoboken waterfront, or even, possibly, for those of a less demanding sensibility, the world to be seen from a comfortable apartment high in the tender, velvety smog of Manhattan, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo, Rio or Rome–there’s no limit to the human capacity for the homing sentiment.”