cover image All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West

All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West

David Gessner. Norton, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-08999-8

Channeling writers Wallace Stegner (1909%E2%80%931993) and Edward Abbey (1927%E2%80%931989) and their mutual love of the wide-open spaces of the American West, Gessner (The Tarball Chronicles) delivers a spirited, ecologically minded travelogue, based on his exploration of the wilds of Colorado and Utah in summer 2012. In the author's estimation, Stegner and Abbey were "two of the most effective environmental fighters of the twentieth century," though "their tones couldn't have been more different." Stegner, a Pulitzer Prize%E2%80%93winning novelist, practiced environmental advocacy through consciousness raising and by supporting legislation to protect the Western landscape. Abbey, regarded by many as a neo-Thoreauvian, encouraged "monkey wrenching" or environmental sabotage to obstruct the development of public lands. Gessner quotes liberally from the novels and essays of both writers, as well as from works by other nature writers and conservationists, as he tours a rapturously described Western wilderness endangered by drought, forest fires, and fracking. He writes with a vividness that brings the serious ecological issues and the beauty of the land into to sharp relief. For instance, he likens a dried riverbed overflowing from a sudden flash flood to "a dehydrated man choking on his first gulp from a canteen" and says of a landscape marred by oil drilling that "it looked as if someone had taken a knife to a beautiful woman's face." This urgent and engrossing work of journalism is sure to raise ecological awareness and steer readers to books by the authors whom it references. (Apr.)