Wild-man journalist David Gessner talks Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and the newest iteration of the New West

At 30, journalist David Gessner was out of work, suffering through radiation treatment for testicular cancer and reading rejection notes from creative writing programs.

But one program accepted him. Boulder. So, he set out in his brother’s Buick Electra from New England to Colorado, drinking coffee by day and beer by night. When he saw the mountains looming over the plains, he fell in love with the West.

He moved into a cabin in Eldorado Springs and started reading Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner. Gessner calls Abbey’s Desert Solitaire “an anthem of my own return to life.”

The two writers became Gessner’s “pole stars” as he learned about the environmental issues facing the West. Abbey, the monkey-wrenching radical, and Stegner, the reformer who worked with the Kennedy administration, both saw themselves as writers first and environmentalists second. They showed Gessner how to study a landscape, how to explore the politics of environment, and how to be a writer who champions the fate of the earth.

In his new book, All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West, Gessner weaves together travelogue, biography, literary criticism and environmental journalism to chronicle his own journey with these two classic Western writers.

Tonight, Gessner will read from his book at The Tattered Cover, as part of the bookstore’s Rocky Mountain Land Series. The free reading starts at 7 p.m., at 2526 East Colfax Avenue, Denver. For more information, go to The Tattered Cover website.

Photo courtesy of David Gessner