Van Dyke's book first captured the nation's imagination in 1901, at a time when attitudes about the land were changing. It provided a vocabulary that continues to be used as appreciation of deserts increases and ever greater pressures lead to new calls to protect these fragile environments. With an introduction by Peter Wild, this annotated edition offers new insights - and reveals some surprising truths - about this legendary author and his best known work. Van Dyke was not, it seems, the "plaster saint of the desert." He was not entirely honest with his readers about the journeys that inspired the book, and his natural history includes serious errors. But in this more informed reading, Wild notes, Van Dyke "emerges as all the more fascinating a writer and his famous book becomes far more intriguing than most readers have imagined through the decades."
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