Wit and Wisdom in ‘The Monkey Wrench Gang’

The cover art of Edward Abbey's book "The Monkey Wrench Gang"Per a friend’s recommendation I read Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang this year. The novel follows four unlikely companions who– angered by the destruction of their beloved southwestern American desert by ever-expanding industry– turn to sabotage.

The gang is comprised of the wise and eloquent Doc Sarvis, the strong-willed Bonnie Abbzug, the “incorrigibly bucolic” Seldom Seen Smith, and the brutish, testosteronic Vietnam vet: George Hayduke. These characters come from diverse backgrounds, but are unified in the conviction that no one has a right to destroy the the impeccable and essential wilderness they cherish.

So they disassemble bulldozers, they blow up assembly lines, they uproot survey stakes… you know… eco-terrorist stuff. They come together to strike back against the oil companies, coal companies, and mining companies destructively extending their greedy paws into the pristine desert of the American southwest.

Entertaining and artfully constructed, the book challenges the assumption that permanent growth is both desirable and necessary, which seems to be largely ingrained into the American psyche. Though Abbey’s writing is often confusingly scattered and alarmingly opinionated, it is also excellent. Abbey unleashes an impressive vocabulary– often bending obscure words into unlikely contexts, in a way I find beautiful and exciting– and presents many deep and compelling thoughts.

Here are some examples of the wit and wisdom exhibited in The Monkey Wrench Gang.

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