Wonderlandscape: Yellowstone National Park and the Evolution of an American Cultural Icon

John Clayton. Pegasus, $27.99 (298p) ISBN 978-1-68177-457-2

Journalist and Montana native Clayton (Stories from Montana’s Enduring Frontier) reconsiders the history of Yellowstone National Park through its social functions, sharing a collection of stories that contextualize the development of core American ideals through “nature that has been made culture.” He brings forth much about how our national identity has shaped our relationship with land, wildlife, and our understanding of the balance between accessibility and conservation. Each of the book’s 11 chapters highlights a different key point in the development of Yellowstone as a uniquely American icon. For example, chapter three, “Informal,” talks about the 1904 building of the Old Faithful Inn, a huge luxury accommodation with a log-cabin aesthetic that established the idea of rustic glamour for Americans. “Patriotic,” the fifth chapter, discusses the idea of Yellowstone as a “museum of democratic equality” in the 1920s. Chapter 10, “Threatened,” shows how ecological science clashed with media representations of patriotic and frontier traditions and the popular understanding of them in the management of Yellowstone’s 1988 wildfires. Clayton succeeds in presenting Yellowstone as a core American institution that shares an intimate relationship with Americans as a cultural concept and that acts as a mirror through which Americans have redefined themselves across generations. Illus. Agent: Laura Wood, Fine Print. (Aug.)