On How @Edward__Abbey Is A Disgrace To Edward Abbey’s Memory

It was through a retweet by Anton Newcombe that I discovered the Twitter feed of @Edward__Abbey, purporting to convey, if not actual quotes of the late environmentalist radical, then his sensibility a quarter century after his death.  There are many such posthumous tweeters, from Richard Nixon to Oscar Wilde, and several are quite amusing.  The Abbey feed, however, is a travesty.

Edward Abbey was many things — an entertaining novelist, a crackling wit, the desert Southwest’s poet laureate, a fiercely radical opponent of unchecked growth and sprawl that led to environmental desecrations such as the Glen Canyon Dam.  He was wrong and illiberal on many things, particularly in what today we would recognize as a racist opposition to immigrants from Mexico, which he couched in terms of trying to protect the Southwest from a population explosion, but which was ugly any way you slice it.  But he was funny.  And persuasive in his humor.  What he wasn’t was a one-dimensional, self-parodic purveyor of the communist dialectic.  You wouldn’t know that from this disgraceful feed.

We don’t know if many of the purported quotes in the feed are actually from Abbey.  We’ve given Abbey close study over many years, and the quotes in the feed just don’t quite sound like him.  They are close, but no cigar.  They read like the product of a humorless teenager who knows enough about Abbey to echo some of what he wrote or said, but not enough to be able to convey the nuances. There is a notable absence of Abbey’s humor, which aside from his passion, was his most attractive quality.  Whomever is behind the feed makes Abbey sound like the biggest bore on the campus quad, not the writer of Desert Solitaire or The Monkey Wrench Gang.

As is its practice, after following Abbey, this morning I received an email from Twitter with “Suggestions based on Edward Abbey.”  The first suggestion was @Che__Guevara.  Of course it was.  What a reprehensible hijacking of one of America’s great treasures.

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