Out West

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Dayton Duncan’s OUT WEST is historical yet modern, retrospective yet forward-looking. The journey that took the Lewis and Clark expedition some thirty months to complete took Duncan only three and a half, spread over two summers and one winter. Lewis and Clark sometimes had as many as forty-five people with them; Duncan traveled mostly alone. Lewis and Clark averaged fifteen miles a day, Duncan ten times that.

Duncan’s maxims for traveling include not asking anyone for directions, not looking at maps unless one absolutely has to, not traveling at night (when there is little to see), and not traveling on interstate highways. Moving slowly, Duncan stopped along the way to read signs, talk with people, take in the view, commune with nature, and imbibe the great American West. Throughout the narrative, he draws comparisons and contrasts between his journey and that of his historic predecessors--noting, for example, that many towns which were flourishing in Lewis and Clark’s time are virtually deserted today.

Duncan inveigles even the most inveterate stay-at-homme into traveling part of the way with him. His good spirit and guilelessness show through on every page of this beautiful book, whose illustrations pale beside its author’s vivid word pictures.