University of Arizona Press
Under The Devil’s Thumb
David Gessner first moved to Colorado in the wake of a bout with cancer. In Under the Devil’s Thumb, this young New Englander takes readers on a joyous quest to discover the mysteries of the western landscape and the landscape of the soul as well.
In the West Gessner began to rewrite his life. Under the Devil’s Thumb is a story of rugged determination and sweat, as well as humor, adventure and hope. In and around his new hometown of Boulder, Colorado, Gessner hiked hard and ran alongside flooded creeks. He found that the West was a place of stories—stories that grow out of the ground, flow out of the dirt, work their way through one’s limbs, and drive people to push their physical limits. Hiking up scree slopes toward the Devil’s Thumb, a massive outcrop of orange rock that attracts climbers, hikers, and contemplators, Gessner reflects on the illness he has so recently survived.
He pushes his physical limits, hoping to outrun death, to outrun dread. He finds momentary transcendence in the joys and self-inflicted pain of mountain biking. “Nothing but the hardest ride has the power to flush out worry, mind clutter, and dread.” In tranquil moments he seeks a chance to recover an animal self that is strong and powerful enough to conquer mountains, but also still and quiet enough to see things human beings ignore. In the mountain West, Gessner finds what Wallace Stegner called “the geography of hope.” He finds within himself an interior landscape that is healthy and strong. Combining memoir, nature writing, and travel writing, Under the Devil’s Thumb is one man’s journey deep into a place of healing.
Book Reviews For Under The Devil’s Thumb
“For those interested in putting the Gulf crisis in perspective, there can be no better guide than this funny, often uncertain, frank, opinionated, always curious, informed and awestruck accounting of how we’ve gone wrong and could go right, a full-strength antidote to the Kryptonite of corporate greed and human ignorance.” — Atlanta Journal Constitution
“Gessner’s essays are on fire. He shows us that we can have delightful, imaginative and creative lives by becoming more rooted and connected to the place where we are . . . Wise and enlivening, provoking us into a higher understanding of both nature and ourselves.” — Rocky Mountain News
“His various trips through the West reveal a joy in life and the outdoors that most readers will find contagious.” — Library Journal
“Fearless, funny, sad, and exhilarating.” — Luis Alberto Urrea