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I M L Taylor Na tu r is t as To u r is t: M ary A u stin ’s “Autom obile Eye View’’ in Th e L a n d o f J o u r n e y s ’ E n d in g B e t s y K l i m a s m i t h When Mary Austin visited El Morro, New Mexico, in 1923, she was moved to choose the site, if only rhetorically, as her final resting place. As she writes in The Land of Journeys’ Ending, “Here, at least, I shall haunt, and as the time-streams bend and swirl about the Rock, I shall see again all the times that I have loved, and know certainly all that now I guess at” (231). Whether or not Austin’s ghost remains at El Morro, her shade certainly haunts Lawrence Clark Powell’s novel of the same name. In El Morro (1984), Powell pairs his Austin-obsessed heroine Aria with an attractive western guide named Stone, who remembers hoisting the cantankerous Austin up El M ono’s steep trails in the early days of his career. With Stone’s help, Aria reconstructs the journey through Arizona and New Mexico that Austin describes in The Land of Journeys’ Ending. Aria is devoted to Austin’s text. She has committed long passages to memory, presses flowers between appropriate pages of Image 1. Map from p. 2 of Austin’s The Land ofJourneys’ Ending (1924). B e t s y K l im a s m it h the text, and even sleeps with the book under her pillow. Yet even such a committed disciple remains a mere tourist in the Southwest; she can­ not actually see the terrain Austin describes without the help of some­ one who knows the country intimately— a guide, Stone, who has per­ sonally experienced the place in the way that Austin advocates. In Powell’s novel, The Land of Journeys’ Ending emerges as a travel book that paradoxically makes tourism impossible. Austin, no doubt, would have approved. The iMnd ofJourneys’ Ending was one of many travel guides to the West that were published after 1910 as Americans increasingly explored the region by car. Yet in nominally introducing readers to the area, Austin’s text disrupts a touristic view of the West. Generally, whether they function as guidebooks or as descriptive accounts of unfamiliar areas, travel books aim to make new places accessible to their readers. Journeys’ Ending redefines touristic modes of encountering new places. Like much of Austin’s other writing about place, the text engages actively with the complex elements that combine to form the south­ western landscape: its social and political culture, its history, and its eco­ nomics are indivisible from the physical environment. Austin conceived of The Land ofJourneys’ Ending not as a literal guide but as a metaphys­ ical “prophecy.” She aims to convey to her readers “all those things com­ mon to a given region, ... the flow of prevailing winds, the succession of vegetal cover, the legend of ancient life; and the scene, above every­ thing the magnificently shaped and colored scene” of Arizona and New Mexico (438). Austin’s construction of travel in Journeys’ Ending ap­ proximates this notion of “prophecy” because it emerges as a vision of place over time. Austin enacts a method of understanding place that she advocated and practiced throughout her long writing career. Her inte­ grative prophecy, however, is complicated in Journeys’ Ending by the uneasy intersections between the modem world and the past that char­ acterize both the landscape and Austin’s mode of travel. Austin’s desire to orient her readers toward a prophetic sense of the land over time is evident from the opening of the text. Like many travel books, The ÍMnd ofJourneys’ Ending begins with a map of the ter­ rain it describes (Image 1). Austin’s map of the New Southwest empha­ sizes natural features such as canyons, mountains, and rivers, as well as important historical travel routes (“Trails of Our Ancients,” “Trails of the Spanish”) and specific sites that have been effaced by the passage of time (“Cities that Died...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 54-78
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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