27 Nat. Resources J. 949 (1987)
Book Reviews

handle is hein.journals/narj27 and id is 967 raw text is: BOOK REVIEWS

John Muir in His Time and Ours.
San Francisco: Sierra Paperback Library. 1987.
Pp. xii, 417. $10.95, s.c.
Frederick Turner's biography of John Muir is an elegant and beautiful
book. When originally published in hardback in 1985' it received the
glowing reviews that it so richly deserved, . . . a tour de force.2 The
reviews focused on the life of Muir, his transition from a boy born in
Dunbar on the harsh north coast of Scotland to the founder and driving
force of the new conservation movement in America. This transition is
fascinating and makes for a worthy, interesting, and entertaining book.
Muir was a man who, with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David
Thoreau, shaped modern American consciousness of the wilderness as a
necessary adjunct of civilization. Anyone who is interested in the pres-
ervation of our shrinking wilderness should read the book. They should
read it because it will vividly illustrate that the battle is not new, and one
person can make a difference; but for those people the book is preaching
to the converted. The real audience for the book should be anyone who
is trying to understand modern American society. We have always been
a society caught in the paradox of acting as if we had apparent unlimited
wealth, both material and spiritual, while aware in the depth of our
collective soul that nothing is unlimited. Consequently when the west is
used up we must discover a new west. Conservation cuts against the
grain because to conserve must imply that there is a limit.
To me, and I suspect for many others, American history after the Civil
War and the start of World War I is at best a faintly sketched map.
Reconstruction, robber barons, railroads, corruption, consolidation and
conquest are cities on the map that we have only heard of or if we have
visited them, it was at night on the way to the roaring twenties. As for
the towns and hamlets, we know nothing. Turner's book fills in some of
the towns and hamlets in both a philosophical and real way.
John Muir was a wanderer of the mind of the world. He tramped the
continent and in his copious journals he saw and recorded the change.
They were changes that marked the end of the New World; at least the

I. Viking Press (1985).

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