THE FOOL'S PROGRESS by Edward Abbey

THE FOOL'S PROGRESS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The essays of nature-journalist/pontificator Abbey have been on the whole more successful than his fiction, which, like this 1980 picaresque journey of a dying man--from Arizona to home in West Virginia--serves mainly as a stage for bright and fruity bombast and some exhibitionistic capers, geezer frat-house macho style. Still, as always with Abbey, there are magic moments, usually within observations of the natural soulfilling wonders of the Southwest, when Abbey goes after his favorite higher-primate targets: ""the vampires of real estate, the leeches of finance, the tapeworms of profit [that] have fastened themselves to the body of my nation like a host from Hell."" Henry Lightcap has just been left by his third wife. In a rage he drinks up a storm and shoots the refrigerator on which Elaine has left the message: ""Go to Hell, Harry."" Then with the dying mutt Solstice, Henry sets off in his 1962 Dodge panel truck (Henry has a deep loyalty to honest machines), headed for his boyhood home, mother, and brother Will, in Stump Creek, Shawnee County, West Virginia. Along the way, he'll coax up a past: that ""low-class, deer-poaching, redneck"" part--Shawnee, his ""Paw,"" family and neighbors in that tough little colony of the 30's and 40's. In the present--Henry's ""Everyman's Journey to the West""--he'll see America unspoiled and despoiled and see old acquaintances: a prototypical do-gooder (""We admire them, we need them, we can't stand them""), a greed king, and a mystic, still smiling in the face of the truth that ""we are the plague of the cosmos."" Henry reviews his years as park ranger, life with first wife Myra (a fierce abstract painter) and second wife Claire--and tragedy. At last, Henry makes it home, carrying his ""evil secret,"" to a welcome within a mist of dream and reality. More Abbey invective, thunderations, and exaltations, harnessed for a fictional journey--at times labored and lumbered with ego-trips, but exhilarating in sprints of wicked satire, empathic appreciations of man and nature, and philosopical fillips. A necessity for Abbey fans.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1988
ISBN: 0805057919
Publisher: Henry Holt