Beyond Borders: The Selected Essays of Mary Austin

Beyond Borders: The Selected Essays of Mary Austin

Beyond Borders: The Selected Essays of Mary Austin

Beyond Borders: The Selected Essays of Mary Austin

Synopsis

A well-known, popular, and prolific writer, Austin published thirty-three books and three plays and was closely associated with many important literary figures of her time, including H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Jack London, and Willa Cather. Still best known today for her nature writing and southwestern cultural studies, Austin has been increasingly recognized for her work on feminist themes, including the play The Arrow Maker, the nonfiction The Young Woman Citizen, and the novels A Woman of Genius and No. 26 Jayne Street. Beyond Borders demonstrates that variety. In addition to her monographs, Austin also published her short fiction and essays in periodicals. In fact, like many a writer earning a living from her work, Austin wrote prolifically for the magazine market, producing during her career over two hundred individual pieces published in over sixty periodicals. In support of Austin's essays, Reuben J. Ellis provides an introduction that establishes a biographical and historical context for Austin's work. In addition, each individual Austin essay is prefaced by brief introductory remarks by the editor. A selected bibliography of Austin's essays is also included.

Excerpt

Mary Hunter Austin might have seen it as the right hat in the wrong place. Harrison Fisher's cover painting for the February 1913 issue of The Ladies' Home Journal depicts a carefully sophisticated, stylishly intelligent "ideal woman" already so confident and successful -- what does she need with the vote? On Harper's Weekly or The Nation the painting might have been the image of Austin's considerably more progressive notion of the Young Woman Citizen. She wears a fur, holds a small dog, and her dark hair is topped with a huge and billowing green hat. With her fantastic hats as much a lifelong trademark as her Paiute wickiup writing office and her confident and expansive prose, it was a hat that Austin might have worn.

But for Austin -- feminist, nature writer, regional theorist, and social commentator, then at the height of her own career as a magazine writer -- the rest of the magazine was something of a fortunate flop. It had "failed to retard in the slightest degree," Austin wrote in 1922, "the successful development of all the ideas it opposed -- suffrage, women's clubs, family limitation and the like, -- which went on progressively among the very women on whose living room tables the 'Journal'was periodically displayed." It was in this successful current of ideas that Austin made her contribution, not adorning the covers of America's magazines, but rather, like a growing number of influential women writers after the turn of the century, helping to fill their pages with the insights arising from the exciting and evolving role women were making for themselves in American society and culture.

Still best known for her 1903 The Land of Little Rain, acknowledged as a classic within the tradition of American nature writing, Austin has been identified, perhaps too specifically, with that tradition. Although much of her work, on a variety of topics, can be read as grounded in her close observations of the natural environment and her sense of living within what she calls the "Earth Horizon," her writing extends well beyond the first-per-

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