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Writing the Western Landscape


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This Western companion volume to Emerson and Thoreau's Nature & Walking (Beacon, 1991) contains excerpts from works by Austin and Muir, whose response to the characteristic Western terrain is very different from the way the East Coast writers regarded their more settled landscapes. Austin, a prolific novelist, poet, and essayist, reveals her poetic nature even in her nonfictional accounts of the American Southwest. To her, all nature is animate, almost human. Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, is also a memorable writer on such natural subjects as the Grand Canyon and Alaska. The appeal of these writers' style, the specificity and knowledge with which they portray the Western landscape, and care with which editor Zwinger, herself a nature writer and illustrator, has introduced and edited the selections make this work a necessary additon to American readers' knowledge of the western United States.-Marie L. Lally, Alabama Sch. of Mathematics and Science, Mobile

In the early 20th century, Austin, who was captivated by the desert, and Muir, who was devoted to mountains and forests, forged new territory in nature writing. Excerpts from Austin's Earth Horizons and The Land of Journey's Ending are paired in this collection with those from Muir's The Grand Canon of the Colorado and Travels in Alaska. Zwinger ( Beyond the Aspen Grove ) has selected striking examples of the work of these two writers; of particular note are the essays on the the Grand Canyon. This volume and its companion, the publisher's 1991 Nature/Walking by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, edited by John Elder, vividly illustrate the differences in perspective between early eastern observers and later western writers. (Sept.)

Two of this country's greatest writers on the natural world.--Washington Post Book World

"As thinkers and artists, [Austin and Muir] were made by the West. Though neither was born in it, they found it their spiritual home, the source of their power. Their writing about it is an act of acknowledgment, a gift from the heart. From them we still learn to see our mountains."--Ursula K. Le Guin, Portland Oregonian

"John Muir and Mary Austin exemplify the patterns and perspectives of classic nature writing. . . . Muir appears as the solitary, romantic explorer . . . [while Austin's] feminism and inclusivity point up the limitations of the romantic excursion as a basis for sustainable relations with land."--John Tallmadge, Orion

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