The best-selling book at Back of Beyond is Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire. During Abbey’s two seasons working as a ranger at Arches National Monument in the late 1950s, he kept a descriptive journal of his experiences. From these journals, Desert Solitaire was published in 1968 and slowly became a classic of environmental literature.
“With the 50th anniversary of Desert Solitaire upon us, Back of Beyond Books has embarked upon a unique publishing program to both honor the importance of Abbey’s book and continue the discussion surrounding Desert Solitaire,” said store owner Andy Nettell. “This November, Back of Beyond in partnership with Torrey House Press will publish Desert Cabal: a New Season in the Wilderness by Amy Irvine. In Desert Cabal Amy Irvine admires the man who influenced her life and work while challenging all that is dated—offensive, even—between the covers of Abbey’s environmental classic.”
Irvine names and questions the “lone male” narrative—white and privileged as it is—that still has its boots planted firmly at the center of today’s wilderness movement, even as she celebrates the lens through which Abbey taught so many to love the wild remains of the nation. Nettell admits that, “Irvine’s words make me squirm a little, mostly because she speaks to truth. Abbey for many is untouchable, and for a contemporary writer to question Ed makes some uncomfortable. The essay speaks powerfully to the environmental and political state we find ourselves in today and anyone who cares about Abbey country will want to read this book.”
Back of Beyond is also publishing a facsimile of the first draft of Desert Solitaire, with hundreds of manuscript changes in Abbey’s hand. This document has never been published before and only 50 sets of the facsimile will be available. Ken Sanders Rare Books is coordinating the publication of four Desert Solitaire ‘themed’ literary letterpress broadsides featuring original words by writers Wendell Berry, Terry Tempest Williams, Doug Peacock and Irvine.
“I’m so excited about these three publications,” says Nettell. “But it is a little scary too. Even though I’ve been in the book trade for 18 years, I really had no idea how expensive books and publications are to publish.” To that end the store launched a KickStarter crowd-sourcing fund raiser Aug. 1 to support the publication program. “We need to raise $15,000 to successfully publish the book, the facsimile and the broadsides.” Nettell continues, “I’ve never felt comfortable asking for donations, but I am so committed to this program and feel it so critical we continue Ed’s legacy that we’re going this route. I’m confident that we will succeed in this campaign and produce three beautiful, thought-provoking publications.”
The KickStarter program runs 30 days with a link available on the FaceBook pages of Back of Beyond Books, Torrey House Press and Ken Sanders Rare Books. For more information, contact Nettell at 435-259-5154.