This is a hard book to categorize. Is it a dual biography? A history of a region? An environmental paean to a place? A literary memoir of the West? A road book to both grand and despoiled places?
It’s all of the above and more. Gessner began the book as a tribute to two western writers who have inspired him: Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner. Gessner went to grad school in Colorado and fell in love with the southwest. Abbey and Stegner became his heroes and teachers, although not literally—he learned through their writing.
He compares the more revolutionary-seeming Abbey who broke laws (trashed earth-moving machines to stop development and threatened to blow up dams) with the more straight-laced Stegner. Read more »