The Monkey Wrench Gang
'Revolutionary ... An extravagant, finely written tale of ecological sabotage' The New York Times
Audacious, controversial and hilarious, The Monkey Wrench Gang is Edward Abbey's masterpiece - a big, boisterous and unforgettable novel about freedom and commitment that ignited the flames of environmental activism.
Throughout the vast American West, nature…
Why read it?
5 authors picked The Monkey Wrench Gang as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?
If Desert Solitaire is an American classic, The Monkey Wrench Gang is the blockbuster that everyone knows and loves for its humor, and sex, all wrapped up in an environmental action thriller.
While this book might not be quite as literary as Desert Solitaire, it changed environmentalism in America. This book blended anarchism and environmentalism. It also helped inspire the environmental organization, Earth First. And it created the term “to monkey wrench.”
Read the book because it changed American environmentalism. Love it for its action and thrills in the Desert Southwest. I know I did.
The three books listed above are very serious, as befits the genre. To lighten the mood a little, albeit with sardonic wit, go back to the 1970s, when this novel was first published. The novel became so well known that it spawned the use of the term ‘monkey wrench’ to mean ecologically-motivated sabotage. The four main characters are misfits, led by Vietnam veteran George Hayduke, who target industrial interests threatening the ecosystems of the southwest USA. They burn billboards, sabotage machinery, and eventually plan the destruction of a dam. The law inevitably closes in. It’s good fun but with a…
Written in 1975, this grandaddy of enviro-wacko novels follows four unlikely saboteurs as they gleefully destroy the property of strip miners, developers, loggers, and utility companies in the American Southwest. I can’t resist eccentric characters determined to stick it to The Man, and if they toss off one-liners as they commit ingenious felony vandalism in the name of environmental justice, so much the better. One scene—involving two bulldozers, 50 feet of Navy anchor chain, and a cliff—is among my all-time comic favorites.
This was one of the first radical activist books I ever read, as a teen in the 1980s, and it remains one of the most influential environmental novels, so much a part of our culture that the term “monkeywrench” took on its popular meaning from this book. The book’s characters use sabotage to damage development machinery threatening their beloved southwestern landscape. While the tactics of eco-terrorists may have fallen out of fashion, the book is undoubtedly an important piece of the activist lit lexicon.
The environment has had no bolder hero (or anti-hero) than George Washington Hayduke, Edward Abbey’s fictional eco-saboteur. “My job is to save the f***ing wilderness,” says Hayduke, and he and his compatriots head into the desert to destroy the infernal machinery of the industrial age. Thus was born, or at least made compellingly readable, an idea that has worked its way into one thread of the environmental movement: the march of development must be stopped, by whatever means necessary. The Monkey Wrench Gang is worth reading both as a hugely entertaining mashup of fictional genres ranging from the pulp to…
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