In 1991, writer David Gessner was home in Worcester, Massachusetts with testicular cancer and rejection letters from all but one creative writing program he applied to. He was accepted to the University of Colorado Boulder, so west he went.
That’s when he first picked up classic nature writer Edward Abbey’s books that detailed the beauty and exploitation of the American West. The more Gessner read, the healthier he got, and Abbey has stayed with him ever since.
Now, several years and novels later, Gessner is back in his old college town, excited to present his latest title All the Wild that Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West at the Boulder Library this Thursday at 6 p.m.
The book is a travel memoir, with nature writing and literary criticism woven throughout.
Gessner will be joined by author Sean Prentiss who wrote The Search for Edward Abbey and his Hidden Desert Grave about tracing Abbey’s burial site that is located where nobody will ever find it, according to legend.
Together, Gessner and Prentiss will talk about the future of the American West at a time when drought, pine beetles, floods and fires make these last-century environmental writers seem all the more prescient.
Gessner told The Colorado Independent he’ll focus on Wallace Stegner — the reserved and academic complement to Abbey’s brash and anarchic ethos.
They are “the head and the heart” of environmentalism, Gessner said.
Their legacy inspired Gessner to retrace their steps across the West, all the while asking himself: “Is it possible to be good and wild at the same time?”
This free event takes place Thursday, at 6 p.m., at the Canyon Theater, in the Boulder Public Library, 1000 Arapahoe Ave.