The fool's progress

Edward Abbey, 1927-1989

Book - 1998

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FICTION/Abbey, Edward
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New York : Holt c1998.
1st Owl Books ed
Item Description
"An honest novel."
"A John Macrae/Owl book."
Physical Description
513 p. ; 21 cm
Main Author
Edward Abbey, 1927-1989 (-)
Review by Library Journal Reviews

Long a rabid defender of the wilderness, a man who has taken an almost anarchic view of the concept of individual freedom, Abbey offers his first fiction in 12 years. The story of a man's journey home (both literally and figuratively), this work is a bitterly humorous commentary on the foibles of modern society and its impact on nature. Government officials, tourists, developers, hippies, Mexicans, Indiansall feel his wrath. For all its surface crudity and earthiness, this novel is full of passion and pathos; Henry Lightcap's lifelong struggle to maintain his individuality and more immediate struggle to complete his journey from Tucson to Stump Creek, West Virginia, assume almost heroic proportions. A powerful, often hauntingly beautiful novel recommended for most libraries.David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla. Copyright 1988 Cahners Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Abbey has won a devoted following with such caustic meditations as Desert Solitaire and anarchistic novels like The Brave Cowboy and The Monkey Wrench Gang. None of them, however, could adequately have prepared one for The Fool's Progress , an epic exploration of Abbey's passionate loves and hatreds, set forth in a wild, picaresque novel that reads at times like a combination of Thomas Wolfe and Jack Kerouac. Henry Lightcap is a woodsman's son from a remote corner of West Virginia who has dedicated his life to nature, music, literature and the pursuit of booze and lovely women. He works only as he has to, to afford the things he craveswhich do not include any of the material products of our culture except for the necessary vehicles for his constant wanderings. Like Abbey himself, Lightcap has spent much of his 53 years in the wilderness of the American West, as park ranger or fire watcher, and is at once passionately devoted to the land and full of rage at what late 20th century America has done to it. At the beginning of the book one of his several wives has walked out on him. Typically, Henry shoots the refrigerator, then gathers up his dying dog and begins a despairing odyssey across a lovely but ruined land from Tucson to the Appalachian family farm still run by his brother; penniless, he has nowhere else to go. Along the way we learn of his childhood, his father, his women, his Army experiencesand receive two huge narrative surprises, of a kind not easy to bring off in a book that is essentially a road novel with flashbacks. One involves the only real love of Henry's life, a tale told with aching tenderness and anguish; the other embraces his very existence. At his best Abbey writes with fierce eloquence of landscape and city, of stunted souls and drunken despair; he can be funny and poignant at once, and describes violent action with horrid vividness. At his worst he gets hyperbolic and full of bile, and a savage streak of male chauvinism surfaces. But Henry, and what he represents, seizes hold of the imagination, so that the reader is carried along as irrevocably as Henry's battered truck, lurching along interstates and fading country roads to a windup as absurdly moving as anything you have read in years. 50,000 first printing; author tour. (October) Copyright 1988 Cahners Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Henry Lightcap, a man facing a terminal illness, sets out on a trip across America accompanied only by his dog, Solstice, and discovers the beauty and majesty of the Southwest

Review by Publisher Summary 2

After his third wife leaves him and he shoots his refrigerator, drunken, cynical anarchist Henry Holyroak Lightcap and his dying dog embark on an outlandish journey to West Virginia to atone for past mistakes and to battle the destructive forces of "progress." Reprint. 20,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

The Fool's Progress, the "fat masterpiece" as Edward Abbey labeled it, is his most important piece of writing: it reveals the complete Ed Abbey, from the green grass of his memory as a child in Appalachia to his approaching death in Tuscon at age sixty two. When his third wife abandons him in Tucson, boozing, misanthropic anarchist Henry Holyoak Lightcap shoots his refrigerator and sets off in a battered pick-up truck for his ancestral home in West Virginia. Accompanied only by his dying dog and his memories, the irascible warhorse (a stand-in for the "real" Abbey) begins a bizarre cross-country odyssey--determined to make peace with his past--and to wage one last war against the ravages of "progress.""A profane, wildly funny, brash, overbearing, exquisite tour de force." -- The Chicago Tribune