No. 35, Spring/Summer 1994
The Deserts in Literature
Desert Reading: A List by Peter Wild
Author, Editor, and Professor of English at
The University of Arizona
- Philippe Diolé. Sahara Adventure, translated by Katherine
Woods. New York: Julian Messner, 1956.
- Diolé is tough-minded, perceptive, a scientist whose
accuracy doesn't stifle his emotions. Rather ironically,
this undersea archaeologist has written the best book ever
- John C. Van Dyke. The Desert. New York: Scribner's, 1901.
Reprint, Tucson: The Arizona Historical Society, 1976.
- The old scalawag! He faked his trip through the
American Southwest and since then has been laughing up his
sleeve at generations of adoring desert rhapsodists. But his
little volume remains America's best, teaching us how to see
deserts as grand paintings, and proving once again that life
is one thing, art quite another.
- Mary Austin. The Land of Little Rain. Boston: Houghton
- She can be precious in treating the people and
landscapes of Southern California, but when Austin describes
elf owls hunting through the night as "speckled fluffs of
greediness" she reveals the talent that wins her the
position of America's second greatest desert writer.
- Edward Abbey. Desert Solitaire. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968.
Reprint, Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1988.
- A rebellious farmboy who studied philosophy, Abbey
spent much of his life celebrating Southwestern deserts
while lashing their destroyers with his wit. Appeals to the
young rebel in us all.
- Peter Reyner Banham. Scenes in America Deserta. Salt Lake
City: Gibbs M. Smith, 1982.
- Edward Abbey turned inside out, this antiromantic
English art critic adores the freeway system of Los Angeles
for its aesthetic intricacies and shoots barbs at "desert
maniacs of the ecological generation." Banham challenges our
assumptions and keeps us honest.
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