It's been 20 years since the region's most passionate outdoor writer, Edward Abbey, died at the age of 62 on March 14, 1989.
Through his novels, essays, letters and speeches, Abbey kept insisting that the West was in danger of being developed to death, and the only solution lay in preserving the wilderness. He wrote 21 books in his lifetime, including Desert Solitaire, The Monkey Wrench Gang, The Brave Cowboy and Fool's Progress.
The staff at Maria's Bookshop decided to hold a party to mark Abbey's legacy and give his admirers a chance to reminisce. If they buy a few books, that will be all right, too.
"We were just talking about how many people around here love Abbey, and we called Ken Wright to pull it together," said Libby Cowles of Maria's by phone Thursday.
And Durango author Wright has done just that. Raucous readers have lined up to hold forth.
There are, however, a couple of oddities to the party. It's set to last an hour, and refreshments may run to a few cookies. Won't Abbey followers be more long-winded and thirstier than that?
"We always schedule readings for an hour," Cowles said. "But let's see what happens."
At least one of the readers will be able to tell how he met Abbey.
M. John Fayhee is the author of seven books and many magazine articles. In 2000, Fayhee, along with two partners, resurrected the legendary Mountain Gazette, which, in its previous incarnation in the 1970s, regularly published Abbey's work.
"I met Abbey in the early, early '80s," Fayhee said by phone from Silver City, N.M. "I brought him to Silver City to speak on the campus, and a cocktail party was part of the deal. He talked about the Mountain Gazette. In those days I wouldn't have dreamed that I'd end up resurrecting it,"
Wright, author of The Monkey Wrench Dad with its Abbey reference in the title, will serve as master of ceremonies at the March party. The other speakers will be:•Fort Lewis College professor Kate Niles, a widely-published journalist and the author of The Basket Maker and Geographies of the Heart.
•Poet Art Goodtimes, who writes from Cloud Acre on Wright's Mesa between the Colorado Plateau and the San Juan Mountains. When not serving as Colorado's only Green county commissioner, he grows organic heirloom seed potatoes, hosts poetry events and runs the parade at the Telluride Mushroom Festival.
•Durango City Councilor Michael Rendon, the former director of The Environmental Center at Fort Lewis College, and a former Maria's Bookshop bookseller. He is executive director of the Sexual Assault Services Organization in Durango.
•Writer B. Frank, who wanders the dry country Abbey wandered, seeking truths and chances to rouse the sleeping rabble for one more try at retaking the empire.
People are invited to come with their favorite Abbey passages, memories and stories to share.