Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Revision Instructions

These instructions are a reminder/update of what’s going on for the next couple weeks.

First, just so everyone is clear - there is no regular essay due next week. You should be working on your revisions instead. These revisions will be due by next Friday at 5:00 p.m.

We will continue to discuss revisions for the next two classes. There are also many details on the syllabus. But as a reminder, here are the basics.

  1. You are expanding, rewriting, or reimagining one of your earlier essays. While you should pay attention to my advice and the advice of others, your goal should be neither to minimize your work nor to slavishly follow comments, but to present your best work, where your focus will be your argument. You should do much more work than you would for a weekly essay, but I am not expecting lengthy papers - 5 good pages is the minimum, with at least 2 of those being wholly new writing.

  2. Using at least one outside academic source is required. You need to cite your source(s) accurately, although I will not penalize you for, e.g., incorrect formatting in your bibliography. You should use Pitt’s library (physical or digital) for your research. We will briefly discuss citation in our next class.

  3. Using literary criticism is an obvious strategy, but it would be easy enough to fit in sources from other disciplines - Biology, Psychology, Philosophy, etc. If the source(s) is/are academic, and you are citing them, that’s the minimum requirement. Note the links at the bottom of the post!

  4. I will discuss at least 1 or 2 of your essays in class next week, so I’m looking for volunteers. If you want us to discuss your work (and you should - it’s a very helpful process), send me a link to the one you want to discuss, or email me the version you have started to revise, before our next class.

  5. The following links summarize my position on plagiarism, the English departments position, and give you an introduction to the MLA citation method. Other methods of citation are fine also! The MLA is just the default for this class - not a requirement.

I am also giving you a link to the MLA Bibliography, on Pitt’s digital library (you may need to be on campus, or to log in remotely to the digital library, to access it). For research in literary criticism, this is the usual starting point. For instance, you might load the bibliography, then conduct a search on Edward Abbey to see the wealth of research which is open to you.

Plagiarism and Citation: my summary

Plagiarism: Pitt’s English Department

MLA Citation: Purdue’s Page

MLA Bibliography: via Ebsco

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Questions & Comments on Wilder

Post your questions/thoughts as comments to this post.  Again:  a paragraph is fine, or a couple if you feel so moved.  You are posting on a question, problem or topic of your choice.  Citing a particular passage is recommended but not required.
Dr. Adam,

You had said you were going to post on the blog on what page we should read to in "By the Shores of Silver Lake", but you forgot. So I was wondering what page we should read too!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Post summaries of your group work here

You should post roughly three paragraphs each:  one summarizing the feedback you received from your first peer, one summarizing the feedback you received from your second peer, and one summarizing your plan for revision.  Note that in some cases you might actually end up doing something different - you're welcome to change your plan, but please make sure you have one to change!

Week 3, Prompt 2

Jonathan Hranek
Dr. Adam Johns
English Composition 0200
24 September 2014
Societal Dilemmas
            After weeks of waiting to hear from Edward Abbey to schedule an interview, I have finally heard back from him! Choosing a setting that I thought would evoke honest answers, we meet in the ever-moving Times Square. Walking towards an already surly-faced Abbey, I introduce myself, exchange pleasantries, and begin.
            “So right to the chase, Mr. Abbey. How does your reverence for nature and the environment affect your feelings towards humanity and society as a whole? You seem to fluctuate between absolute loathing people to missing them dearly.”
             “To me, nature should be protected and respected, not destroyed. There is so much beauty and raw power in every aspect of nature, and all humans do is obliterate the world for the sake of their own convenience and laziness. Roads cut through the heart of the natural environment simply to help tourists, while allowing them to lose sight of what’s around them and speed through the grounds without fully appreciating anything. Acres of land are wasted for the necessity of fat people to continue being fat. Humanity is sowing its own destruction. I keep wondering how I can help these people who simply don’t want to be inconvenienced at all for the chance at having the most amazing experiences possible. It’s like people in general are ‘sealed in their metallic shells like moluscs on wheels, how can I pry the people free’ (233). I want to open the doors to the possibilities of finding yourself while getting lost in nature. You lose your physical body in the vast landscape but discover more about yourself than anyone though possible. The loneliness is what makes the experiences exhilarating. I find it extremely ironic that humanity makes everything from the environment while further destroying it.”  
            “I would like to touch on one of the subjects you hinted at. How did your solitude as park ranger affect you?  It’s almost like you hate idea of being attached to anything man-made.”
            “Alone-ness has both some benefits and negatives that go along with being in solitude. It allows you to completely rely on yourself, and in turn teaches you to respect the environment. By being alone, you’re away from the madness of the real world, where comfort is routine, and enjoyment is familiarity. There’s a dependence on everything to do with the normalcy of a structured life, but there’s not necessarily a structure in nature. This lack of a structure is what makes you think by yourself find your limits. I want to tell people to leave their lives and families for a short time to simply come to a reckoning with nature, to ‘turn your back on them and take a long quiet walk straight into the canyons, get lost for a while, come back when you damn well feel like it, it’ll do you and her and them a world of good’ (233). However, I understand the idea of making times easier for people, but not for the abuse of those commodities. Look around you at Times Square. It’s over indulged with unnatural light and clogged with fumy cars. People like the idea of going out and experiencing everything the environment has to offer them, but their busy minds are like this spot in New York. Everything distracts from the problem at hand and prevents them from leaving it behind, much like the traffic disables the drivers from reaching their destination on time. I absolutely do not hate everything man-made, but I strongly dislike the ways in which they have become so depended upon.”
            “With that, I have one last question. Considering your statements regarding the ideas and actions of people, which would you say you have the biggest problem with? The ideas of humanity or its actions.”
            “Without a doubt I have bigger problems with the actions of humanity. Humanity is not a bad thing. It allows for goodness and logic. Its ideals are in and of itself positive and sincere, but the attempts to further humanity is where things start to go awry. People may be doing so in order to help a cause, but in the end the tragic effects aren’t felt until the damage has been done, and therefore can be extremely difficult to predict beforehand.”
            We wrap up our interview and part ways. As he walks away, he gives off a sense of being comfortable in this modernized world, but at the same time removed.

Works Cited
Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. New York: McGraw, 1968. Print.

Week 3 Prompt 3

Jayani Muniappan
Week 3 Prompt 3

Throughout the entirety of this memoir Abbey utilizes pieces of writing from a multitude of genres to emphasize his argument. He effectively integrates quotes from poetry and drama into his writing to make his memoir more operative. There are many examples of where Abbey quotes other literary works and through this essay I will be focusing upon two specific ones.
In the chapter Cowboys and Indians Part II, Abbey refers to William Blake’s Evening Star.  
“Thou fair hair'd angel of the evening,
Now, while the sun rests on the mountains light,
Thy bright torch of love; Thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!
Smile on our loves…”
Through this poem, Blake is conveying the notion that stars bring peace and direction to society during the generally hostile night. Blake utilizes metaphors to associate the star to a "fair-haired angel." This metaphor expresses the shining star as a beautiful goddess who looks over the people during the dark night. Blake also calls the star a bright torch of love, which conveys a beaming and heroic quality to the star. In To the Evening Star, Blake successfully portrays how elements of nature come together to create a beautiful, perfect situation. The star glows luminously, the wind gently blows, and the lake mirrors the light. These three actions come together to produce a beautiful scenery which humans can take advantage of every night. It is this concept, which I felt Abbey was attracted to. This poem portrays nature as a guide, a protector a hero. His use of this specific passage from the poem highlights his idea that nature is a force that aids society. He is able to subtly show his misanthropy towards the part of society that destroys nature through this passage. He’s is indirectly conveying the idea that humans who destroy nature are destroying themselves, because nature is only a mechanism that aids the society.
The second example that I would like to focus upon would be from Down the River. Abbey integrates a verse of a Tigua Indian tribe’s song.
“My home over there,
Now I remember it;
And when I see it that mountain far away
Why then I weep,
Why then I weep,
Remembering my home.”
The Tigua Indians are one of the few tribes that still live in the Southwest. They named their ancestral home Pueblo Gran Quivera. It was north of El Paso. It was started sometime in 800 AD, but by the early 1300’s it was one of the largest towns. The Indians lived peacefully for some time, but in the 1600s Spaniards came and established settlements around the Tigua’s homes. With them, they brought not only unwarranted authority but also diseases and epidemics that caused loss of many Tigua Indian lives. More bad luck found this tribe in the the 1670s, when a drought struck the area for many years. By 1675 the Indians were so desperate that they had to leave their home behind. The Gran Quivera was forcefully left behind. The song that Abbey quotes is a way for the Tigua to remember the home of their ancestors and pay their respects to all the lives that were lost. Abbey integrates this specific song, because he is able to show all that is lost with the actions of human kind. He uses this literary work as a loose comparison to what is happening to our wildlife. The wildlife is the Tigua and humans are the Spaniards. The wildlife exists peacefully on its own. It doesn’t bother anything or anyone, it’s just there, like the Tigua Indians. But as soon as the Spanish came and interfered with the lives of the Tigua, everything took a turn for the worst, just like society. As soon as society interfered with the wildlife and nature in general, everything good about nature was slowly being taken away. Abbey sheds bright light on the fat that by trying to change nature we are slowly causing it to deteriorate.

In conclusion, Abbey has found a way to use the works of others to support his views. He could’ve just stated his ideas, but he takes the extra step to use the work of other authors. Why? Personally I believe that the use of other literary works not only strengthens his argument but also shows Abbey’s literary skill. He is able to integrate seemingly unrelated ideas into evidence for his claims. The use of the different genres allows for connections between different pieces of works and allows the reader to think more deeply about to the memoir.


Abbey, E. (1971). Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness . Ballatine Books .
Emily's Poetry Blog . (2013 , S trieved from http://emilyspoetryblog.com/2013/09/13/to-the-evening-star-by-william-blake/
Moore, R. E. (2012). The Tigua Indians of Texas. Retrieved from The Tigua Indians of Texas: http://www.texasindians.com/tigua.htm

Mysticism in Desert Solitaire

Ruthie Cohen
Dr. Adam Johns
Seminar in Composition
23 September 2014

Mystic Meditation: a Cleanse of Corruption

Abbey, narrator and protagonist in his novel Desert Solitaire, is a true mystic as he sets out on a journey of isolation in which he aims to cleanse himself of human corruption. Refuting a tourist accusing him of hating all of humanity, Abbey clarifies that he “was not opposed to mankind but only to man-centeredness, anthropocentricity, the opinion that the world exists solely for the sake of man” (Abbey 244). There are numerous examples throughout the text in which Abbey scorns the selfish and ignorant characteristics of modern society, this resentment therefore pushing him to a state of solitary meditation.
In the chapter Industrial Tourism and the National Parks, Abbey is angered by the threat of modernization creeping its way into the Arches National Park. In particular, Abbey expresses his disdain for the use of cars:

“Industrial tourism is a threat to the national parks. But the chief victims of the system are the motorized tourists. They are being robbed and robbing themselves. So long as they are unwilling to crawl out of their cars they will not discover the treasures of the national parks and will never escape the stress and turmoil of those urban-suburban complexes which they had hoped, presumably, to leave behind for a while.” (Abbey 51).

Upon the arrival of engineers whom he discovers are paving the way for roads within the park, Abbey’s rage lasts several pages. His fear of technology infiltrating the natural beauty he is immersed in, in addition to his prior need to rid himself of such exploitation, shows his overall resentment towards evolving society rather than the individual. On page 58, at the conclusion of the chapter, Abbey describes the landscape, seemingly put at ease by the simplicity of his natural surroundings. In this instance, the intimidation of cars taking over “my [Abbey’s] desert world” is the catalyst for Abbey’s withdrawal.
Abbey’s story involving the terrible fate of Mr. Husk and his family--an analogy for the corruption of mankind and superiority of nature--is another example in which the narrator’s hatred for modern society leaves him with a self-inflicted burden to purge himself of such demoralization. In his “fruitless search for a fool’s treasure” (Abbey 68), Mr. Husk ends up the victim of a manipulative, greedy man named Mr. Graham. Ironically, the moral of the story implies that the thing that truly destroys man, apart from the powers of nature, is man himself. This element of the analogy further leads Abbey to distance himself from man and his corrupting ways, using nature to purify himself. Abbey is a mystic, as he sees a divine presence within nature, wishing to access it through isolation.
Toward the end of the novel, in the chapter Episodes and Visions, Abbey scorns yet “another clown with a scheme for the utopian national park” (Abbey 247):

“Hire a crew of pretty girls, call them rangerettes, let them sell the tickets and give the campfire talks. And advertise, for godsake, advertise! How do you expect to get people in here if you dont advertise? Next, these here Arches--light them up. Floodlight them, turn on colored, revolving lights--jazz it up man, it’s dead.” (Abbey 247).

Despite his admitted exaggeration, Abbey has a valid point in criticizing the extremities of advertising in a modern capitalist society. With an impatient and cynical tone comparable to an elderly man, Abbey expresses his frustrations with the modern, particularly American, pastime of abusing nature for selfish gains such as profit, amusement and convenience. His reference to “Disneyland National Park” draws irony to the use of such parks--intended to show off the beauty of nature for tourists--for recreational waste. 
The spiritual elements of Abbey’s journey of isolation, characterized by his utter awe and praise of nature, defines Abbey a mystic. His devotion to nature and desolation, although challenging at times, is a sacrifice Abbey makes on behalf of mankind. By the end of the novel, has Abbey achieved this goal? I would argue that he has certainly succeeded in immersing himself in wilderness, segregating himself from the corruption of the “urban” world, however, has this had any impact on the rest of society? Given the power of an author to influence his readers, perhaps Abbey has gotten his message across. Certainly as a result of his mysticism, Abbey has created an intimate and conflicting relationship between the tensions of nature and mankind.

Works Cited

Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire. New York: Touchstone, 1968. Print.

Abbey: The Mystic

Ryan Cooley
September 24, 2014
Seminar in Composition
Adam Johns
Edward Abbey: They Mystic
As I have written in my last couple entries, I believe that Abbey has displayed a lack of growth as a character in his Desert Solitaire that being said, I stick to my belief but in the final chapters I noticed we delve deeper into who Abbey really is. All we know throughout the first half of the book is that Abbey loves nature for all its worth and disparages modern civilization. In the flow of the book, Abbey writes less about who is to what he is and by the end he is indeed a mystic.
              In rereading the first chapter I come across a passage that I appreciate much more one time through the book. Abbey establishes his inner motivations for confining himself to Arches in saying, “I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with a nonhuman world and yet somehow survives still intact, individual, separate” (pg. 7, Abbey). This justifies my earlier claim that while he is not yet a mystic at this point in the book, it is his goal to be one by the end. All of the sudden, the book seems to be less of a memoir and more of a linear story. Linear in the sense that the flow of a generic beginning, middle and end serve to accomplish the Abbey’s overall goal. //Add another sentence
              Though Abbey’s journey into mysticism is reoccurring early, I notice in the chapter “Down the River” there is a boom of events that push Abbey. He goes as far as to call the canyon “paradise” (pg. 167, Abbey), not a paradise but the paradise. Then he goes on to discard any religious view of paradise which is puts him in pretty risky waters on top of all the previous controversial claims. Of course we cannot forget when Abbey decides to become one with nature, if I may, and enjoy life on the water naked. It’s the little things in life Abbey likes to enjoy and it’s these little details that make him a mystic. Nature is Abbey’s religion “floating onward in effortless peace into Eden” (pg. 160, Abbey), is his pilgrimage.   

              On into the next chapter “Havasu” we experience a full mystic Abbey. As he somehow becomes astray into the wild for five weeks, he seems to be in perfect harmony. Whereas, working for Arches still showed us a cynical Abbey, this is the deeper Abbey that we have yet to see before. Even alone and in his most vulnerable state in the wild he states “I don’t care” (pg. 205, Abbey), he had finally achieved his goal. Death could not beat Abbey anymore because in his view he had already lived life to the fullest. While I will not go as far as to call it common sense, Abbey surely is a mystic, mixing religion with nature. Let’s be honest, would we even have Desert Solitaire without this mystic man? 

Prompt 1: Mysticism

I believe Abby is a mystic, but only out of desperation. His mysticism is that he will surrender himself to nature to achieve enlightenment. Abby’s mysticism is like his last hope. He is a loyal servant to the desert out of devotion, but his hope to attain knowledge is desperation to make his more human part fully understand and merge with nature, and to pass on that same knowledge and hope to human society so they will protect nature.
It is obvious from the very beginning Abby wishes to be a guardian for nature. On one of his first nights working in arches he says, “I wait and watch guarding the desert, the arches, the sand and barren rock, the isolated junipers and scattered clumps of sage surrounding me in the stillness and simplicity under the starlight” (Abby 12). He is clearly very protective of all the parks elements. He also calls it his “garden”, and goes on multiple rants about the protection of national parks, natural predator, circle of life, and the destruction he witnesses in human society. He makes it clear that he identifies more with nature and less with humanity. While describing himself he explains, “There are mountain men, there are men of the sea, and there are desert rats. I am a desert rat” (239). Notice he doesn’t call himself a desert man, but a rat. He then goes on to explain the leisurely exploration, and long-term inhabitance, and the rebellion against human assimilation that only the desert allows for (240). Basically he is saying he wants to live in and explore the desert, the least humane or all environments. His characterization of himself as a rat mixed with these desires shows a willingness to dissolve into nature. Not only does Abby want to inhabit nature but he also wants to leave humanity. After seeing a human made damn flood the Glen canyon Abby says, “In these hours and days of dual solitude on the river we hope to discover something quite different, to renew our affection for ourselves and the human kind in general by a temporary, legal separation from the mass” (155). This separation comes from his disappointment in humanity he cannot identify with societies cause. His frustration leads him to retreat into nature. He them goes on to describe a sort of rebirth into nature as they get further away from the dam strengthening the point that he want to be reborn as a part of nature instead of a human.
Abby describes his mysticism and pursuit of knowledge as one of the reason he came here in the first place. He describes, “I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with a non-human world and yet somehow survives still intact, individual, separate. Paradox and bedrock” (6). Abby’s description of his mysticisms is to merge with nature and be reborn. He describes a certain understanding of nature one would gain free of scientific categories, but yet objective. Abby says he would “[risk] everything human in [himself]” for this (6). He goes on to apply this hope to all of society a little later he explains that he appreciates Alaska even though he’s never been because he thinks “We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope” (129). He is describing nature as this refugee an instinctual home to run away to. We need this escape and hope to hold when we desire to lose ourselves in it and escape from society when it gets too awful and too destructive to bare anymore. Abby is saying that at some point we will join him and his mysticism desperate to escape from society, and find an enlightenment on nature. He is saying we need to protect and recognize nature so it’s there when we need it. His mysticism is born from his devotion to nature and inability to identify with society. His mysticism of becoming one with nature sounds farfetched because it is. Even Abby knows this, but he continues to have hope because a deeper understanding and rebirth into nature seem to be his only options in escaping society. 

Prompt 2: Dialogue with Abbey

If there is one thing I hate more than high temperatures, its sweat. Yet, sweat seems to love on me because today I was drenched. Automatically, I was pissed off by this “vacation” my family decided on. (It seems my mom is going through some mid-life crisis that can only be solved with cracked earth and deathly high temperatures). Lynda (my mother), rented an RV and jetted us, my dad and brother included, across the country to some middle of nowhere desert to find inner peace and basically figure her shit out.

 The economy has been failing and with Lynda losing her job she’s more unstable than the stock market. The hardest part (selfishly, I’ll admit) is how stressful it’s been for me. Taking on more responsibility than a normal teenage girl at home should, like making dinner for the family because my dad picked up extra shifts at work while my mom soul searches, has left me somewhere between a rock and a hard place. Which brings me here.

The desert. Or otherwise known as Moab Park, Utah.

My dad though this would be a great family bonding experience and Lynda believes the spiritual element of such a place could only enlighten us further. What was I thinking, you might ask. Well glad you did because I would defiantly tell you,

“This is bullshit.”

“Well of course it is.”

I whirled around to see a park ranger inspecting the family’s RV.

“Umm, hello?”

“You do know you’re in violation of parking protocol. This RV needs to be in the designated parking lots for motor vehicles.”

All I could think was who says motor vehicles.

“Oh, I’m sorry we honestly didn’t know. Where should we move the RV to then?”

“Follow me I can lead you to the correct location.”

There was a moment of hesitation in my step. Every speech my parents ever said about stranger danger filled my head instantaneously. Now that I was thinking about it, where were my parents?

“I should let my parents know where I’m going so they don’t worry about where I am.”

“If I wanted to kill or kidnap you, I would have done it already.”

There was no moment of hesitation, I froze.

“Isn’t that the kind of thing a murderer or kidnapper says?”

“I wouldn’t know.”

“Fair enough.”

“Listen, this park is important and I’m going to need you to respect the rules here, so if you could just follow me it would make both our lives easier.”

I followed him keeping a good distance in case I had to quickly run away. I’m glad I did because the landscape was beautiful. High arches of rock being molded throughout the years, long streaks of multi-colored stone surrounded me but then there’s the sweating.

“It actually is really beautiful here.”

“Well of course, this is nature, this is what beauty is.”

“That was pretty deep.”

“It’s all relative. Your perception of beauty is all based on nature. Just like the Moab here, look at the curvature of these arches. You perceive the elongated slopes to be amazing and romantic, just like the positive characteristics of a woman’s body: elongated legs, dramatic curves, etc.”

“Well then I must not be beautiful because I’m neither elongated nor curvy.”

“Rocks are irregular, strong, and solid.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“It’s my favorite part of the desert.”

“That’s lovely but again, I’m not following you. “

“Young girl, it’s all relative.”

“Well relative to home I’m dying of heat and miserable so how about you explain that one. How far away are we?”

“Pretty close, not much longer. This heat that you hate so much, is what gives life energy. Also, you are sweating out all the toxins in your body, that can’t be so bad.”

“I’d rather have all these toxins still in me at this point.”

“Of course you would say that.”


“It’s just you’re not looking at this in a relative perspective. You are free, you are one within nature, surrounded by beauty and happiness. How can you then be anything other than beautiful and happy?”

“Well I can honestly say right now that I am anything but beautiful and happy.”

“It’s this generation.” He mumbles, mostly to himself. “No appreciate for anything pure and good. No understanding for what is right in this world. Always negative always destroying.”

“Uh, are we any closer? How much farther till the parking lot?”

“Patience is a virtue, young girl. It’s merely another 10 more minutes.”

By this point in our little adventure I was questioning all life decisions and how I possibly got myself into this. Regret was hanging over me like the beating sun that seemed to never disappear.

“Look, I don’t want to give you the wrong idea. I’m just here on family vacation and you’re the one who asked me to walk with you. I’m not trying to have a life lesson from a stranger, uh, no offense.”

“None taken. It’s not like you would ever understand.”

That’s it, I had, had enough.

“What do you mean I couldn’t understand? I understand you perfectly; you think you’re so much better than me because what you “get nature”. What does that even matter? I will easily go through my entire life not caring for one second about Moab or the desert or anything in this dumb park.”

“But you see, you won’t. You will be ignorant to what you truly wish to understand.”

“Oh my god.”

Right in front of me was a huge black lot of asphalt. Nothing so average had appeared so amazing to me in my entire life.  

“Well looks like we found our destination. You can park your family’s RV here in lot B2. Goodbye.”

I headed in that direction only to relize my entire family was already parked in the adjacent lot eating dinner with not a care in the world.

“Wait, thanks for showing me back to the lot. Sorry for being so rude, I do appreciate your help.” I half shouted to the retreating ranger.

“You would’ve found your way, it’s just my job to show you the direction. Have a nice vacation and keep your RV in this lot.”

I sat down to the barbequed styled dinner of grilled chicken, hot dogs and macaroni salad (secretly my favorite food). I still remember my family laughing and having real conversations for one in what seemed like a long time. This was nice, I thought, while sweat accumulated in my lower back, relatively speaking.

Abbey's Inspiration

Jessi Duffner
Dr. Johns
Seminar in Composition
24 September 2014
Abbey’s Inspitarion
As stated in the prompt, Abbey references literary works quite frequently. While each work has a different connection to the book, they all play an important role in helping the reader understand Abbey more clearly. The two works I have decided to focus on are The Land of Little Rain by Mary Austin and On Desert Trails , a collection of works by Everett Ruess. In the chapter “Episodes and Visions” Abbey asks the reader a few rhetorical questions. He states, “There are mountain men, there are men of the sea, and there are desert rats. I am a desert rat. But why? […] The majority of the world’s great spirits, from Homer to Melville and Conrad, have felt the call of the sea and responded to its power and mystery[…] The desert, however, has been relatively neglected” (298-299). After Abbey briefly states why he loves the desert so much, he claims the desert is not entirely ignored and lists several works in which others have explored the desert.
Among these works is a piece titled The Land of Little Rain by Mary Austin. This book is similar to Desert Solitaire in that it is a collection of short stories and essays. Austin writes about the people and the environment of the American Southwest. One main similarity I noticed between the two writers is how they portray the desert. They use the contradicting statements. When Abbey talks about plant life in the desert he refers to the cactus by saying, “The cactus of the high desert is a small grubby, obscure and humble vegetable associated with cattle dung and overgrazing, interesting only when you tangle with it the wrong way. Yet from this nest of thorns, this snare of hooks and fiery spines, is born once each year a splendid flower” (Abbey 29). The cactus plant can be very harmful, yet the flowers growing from it are beautiful. The same idea of beauty and harshness is displayed by Austin when she professes, “There are hills, rounded, blunt, burned, squeezed up out of chaos, chrome and vermilion painted, aspiring to the snow-line. Between the hills lie high level-looking plains full of intolerable sun glare, or narrow valleys drowned in a blue haze. Where the mountains are steep and the rains heavy, the pool is never quite dry, but dark and bitter, rimmed about with the efflorescence of alkaline deposits” (Austin 1). She pushes the reader away from the idea of comfort in the desert, but still presents the thought of beauty and hope. Abbey and Austin use contradiction to help the reader fully experience the desert. In my opinion, I believe Abbey pulls his style of writing from Austin’s work.
Another book briefly mentioned by Abbey is On Desert Trails. This book is a collection of Ruess’ writings, which were compiled after his disappearance. Ruess traveled through the American southwest by himself. His disappearance is still a mystery to this day. However, the similarities I noticed between the writing of Abbey and the writing of Ruess is their animosity towards the human lifestyle. As Ruess states in the last letter he writes to his brother, dated November 11, 1934, "I have not tired of the wilderness; rather I enjoy its beauty and the vagrant life I lead, more keenly all the time. I prefer the saddle to the streetcar and star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bred by cities." It appears as though Ruess’ lifestyle inspired Abbey. We see the same feeling of enmity towards human lifestyle in Desert Solitaire. Abbey remarks, “My God! I am thinking, what incredible shit we put up with most of our lives – the domestic routine (same old wife every night) […] the foul diseased and hideous cities and towns we live in, the constant petty tyranny of automatic washers and automobiles and TV machines and telephone!” (Abbey 193). They both have an uncommon, overflowing love for the desert. Neither Ruess nor Abbey wants to conform to the traditional style of living. While slightly over exaggerating, they both present clear arguments as to why they feel this way.
While Abbey refers to many songs, books and poems, I believe On Desert Trails and The Land of Little Rain have an undeniable impact on Desert Solitaire as a whole. Abbey’s perspective and writing style reflect the two works and give background to Abbey’s decisions.

Works Cited:
Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wildrness. New York: Ballantine, 1968. Print.
Austin, Mary. The Land of Little Rain. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. Web. 23 Sept. 2014. <http://web.archive.org/web/20110212071837/http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=AusRain.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=1&division=div1>.

"Everett Ruess Quotes." Good Reads. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2014. <http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/445669.Everett_Ruess>.