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This is a question This book changed my life

The Goat writes, "Some books have made a huge impact on my life." It's true. It wasn't until the b3ta mods read the Flashman novels that we changed from mild-mannered computer operators into heavily-whiskered copulators, poltroons and all round bastards in a well-known cavalry regiment.

What books have changed the way you think, the way you live, or just gave you a rollicking good time?

Friendly hint: A bit of background rather than just a bunch of book titles would make your stories more readable

(, Thu 15 May 2008, 15:11)
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Life changing experience
This is the story of how two books changed my life: Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang both by Edward Abbey.

I'd managed to swing a few months working in the USA, courtesy of my university course. I was working in Tennessee but with the money I was earning I decided to spend a few weeks sightseeing once work had finished. I had booked onto a rafting trip in Utah so I got hold of some books about the place, once of them being Desert Solitaire.

Well this book just blew my mind with its descriptions of solitude, beauty, danger and death in the canyon country, also with its scathing attacks on tourism and how national parks are managed. While I was on the rafting trip I talked about this book to anyone who would listen, and one guy recommended The Monkey Wrench Gang. I bought it as soon as I got off the raft and into a town big enough to have a book shop.

If Desert Solitaire blew my mind, Monkey Wrench fired me up for action. It's about a gang of people fighting to retain the unspoilt beauty of the desert states, including acts of what we would now call eco-terrorism such as burning down advertising hoardings, spiking trees to prevent logging, etc. I wanted to be one of those people: I'd seen the beauty of the place and I wanted to keep it that way.

So I phoned my parents and my university tutor, telling them that I would stay in the US as long as my money and student visa would let me, then I dumped all my smart clothes, bought some basic camping stuff and set off to find the right people. After some days of hanging round increasingly dodgy bars I met up with people who looked (and smelt) right and sure enough once I mentioned the magical Monkey Wrench words they suggested they were up for some radical action and would I care to join them?

They were living in a camp in the desert: a few trailers parked around huge red rocks. Finally I felt like I was in the right place! For a few weeks they showed me the secret places in the desert, ancient Indian dwellings and rock art, narrow sinewy canyons, hidden plunge pools... In return I seemed to buy them a lot of beer as they'd worked out that I had money.

After I while I realised that what I was missing was the action - striking a blow for the environment and against the National Parks management, against stupid fat tourists in their cars, and against industry. I was mentioning this more and more, asking when we'd do something, prodding the others into action, rather than just recounting their past exploits.

Eventually I decided I'd just go ahead myself, and I proposed chainsawing a few advertising poles. To my surprise Chad (the closest thing to a leader in the group) suggested going for a bigger target: the pumps sucking water out of the river to provide irrigation for the water melon farms in the region. Sounded good to me so I put the plan together, roping in my new friends and setting a date.

On the appointed night we chugged a load of beers then crept out into the dark. The others were surprisingly cheery: I was shit scared and feeling hyper. We all headed off to our various planned locations. I was on my own with just a giant wrench for company. With trembling hands I bypassed the filter system on the pump then opened up an inspection cover and dropped in some rocks. The pump ground to a halt with a satisfying crunch.

With my heart pumping I started back towards the trailers, but was shocked to see blue and red lights flashing. The cops! How had they found out so soon? I panicked, turned tail and headed towards the canyon. In the dark I stumbled across the desert until I found the side canyon which allowed me in. I slithered down the steep slick rock, splashing into pools and scrambling back out. Eventually I reached an old ranch in knew on the broad canyon floor and threw myself down, breathing hard. I stayed there until dawn, expecting to hear my friends arriving any minute, but no one came.

As the sun came up I took stock of the situation: I was alone, in a canyon with no food, and only the clothes I stood up in. I stayed there a couple of days, starving, trying unsuccessfully to catch fish, and not at all feeling the beauty of being alone in this environment which Abbey had described so engagingly. Then I decided I had to move - I walked to the edge of the canyon, and after dark started to walk back to the trailers. It all seemed quiet: I approached carefully, listening out for any noise. There were voices coming from one trailer and a flickering candle light. I pushed open the door - there was most of the rest of the group, sat drinking beer. I walked in, relieved, then saw a policeman sitting drinking beer with them. I was stunned and didn't move as he stood up, looking grim, and moved towards me. Then he burst into a big grin, saying to the others 'But he's just a kid!', and told me I was under arrest for criminal damage.

I was taken to the police station, given a good ticking off and then soon enough put on a plane back to England with my tail between my legs - the massive pumps used for drawing water were not seriously damaged by the small rocks I'd dropped in. The guys in the trailers were just looking for a good time: they'd seen me as a source of beer and amusement for a while and were happy to get rid of me. My plan to sabotage something had been a good excuse. Bastards.

While I'm still keen on protecting and defending the environment I'm a lot more wary of extremist groups and their aims, given what my own slightly extreme views got me into. I'm also a lot more careful about who I call my friends and who I fall in with. I guess some of this comes with increasing age and maturity. I still read those 2 books occasionally, although the memories they bring back are more embarassing than anything else.
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 17:19, 3 replies)
Really well told, and an interesting story.
I've said it before, but nice change from the book-review-style posts that seem to be dominating this week.
Too late in the day to win, I'd guess. Shame.
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 17:27, closed)
A well-written tale of admirable, if naive, actions.

I can't find the dreadful pun, though...
(, Wed 21 May 2008, 17:44, closed)
Have a click
(, Thu 22 May 2008, 3:52, closed)

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