Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wallace Stegner, Ed Abbey & Bruce Babbitt

September 28, 2014
   I just finished reading a new book,"All the Wild That Remains" by David Gessner. It is a road trip and a quasi-dual biography of Wallace Stegner and Ed Abbey. I learned some pretty amazing things about both dudes, like this:

 ". . .as acting editor of  the University of New Mexico's literary magazine, THE THUNDERBIRD, [Ed Abbey] decides to print an issue with a cover emblazoned with the words, 'Man will not be free until the last King is strangled with the entrails of the last priest!' The quote is from Voltaire, but Abbey thinks it funnier to attribute the words to Louisa May Alcott."

   He, was right, of course. It is much funnier. Gessner adds, "And so he quickly loses his editorship while the FBI adds a few more pages to his file."

   The book talked about both their passings and I called The Top Secret Writer to find out exactly where Stegner died in Santa Fe (at the entrance to the Santa Fe Opera). Although the book covers Abbey's death, I knew he had a hard time dying and wanted to be buried in the desert. Got this off of the Ed Abbey website:

"He wanted his body transported in the bed of a pickup truck. He wanted to be buried as soon as possible. He wanted no undertakers. No embalming, for Godsake. No coffin. Just an old sleeping bag... Disregard all state laws concerning burial. 'I want my body to help fertilize the growth of a cactus or cliff rose or sagebrush or tree.] said the message.

 As for graveside ceremony: He wanted gunfire, and a little music. "No formal speeches desired, though the deceased will not interfere if someone feels the urge. But keep it all simple and brief." And then a big happy raucous wake. He wanted more music, gay and lively music. He wanted bagpipes. "And a flood of beer and booze! Lots of singing, dancing, talking, hollering, laughing, and lovemaking." said the message. And meat! Beans and chilis! And corn on the cob. Only a man deeply in love with life and hopelessly soft on humanity would specify, from beyond the grave, that his mourners receive corn on the cob.

   Dang, I love that. So Western. Love these quotes as well:

"Never make the New Yorker's mistake of taking New York for America."
—Wallace Stegner

"I may not know who I am but I know where I am from."

"In the West it is impossible to be unconscious of or indifferent to space."

"Lawlessness, like wildness, is attractive, and we conceive the last remaining home of both to be in the West."

   On Friday I drove down to the Tempe branch of the Arizona Historical Society. The director, John Langellier is proposing a retrospective of my cartoon work as a show in their gallery, to be called "201 Zany Zonies". Among the works he selected is this:

Daily Whipout: "Prince Babbitt," pen and ink

   In the eighties Governor Bruce Babbitt made a run for the presidency. I did this parody of the Sunday comic strip Prince Valiant where Bruce is the conquering hero who comes home to a sexy Hattie, his partner and wife. There is a cameo by the pulitzer prize winning columnist Tom  Fitzpatrick, upper right, as a gnarly, groveling scribe.

"What attracts us is what we then ruin."
—Wallace Stegner