American and British Writers in Mexico is the study that laid the foundation upon which subsequent examinations of Mexico's impact upon American and British letters have built. Chosen by the Mexican government to be placed, in translation, in its public libraries, the book was also referenced by Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz in an article in the New Yorker, "Reflections—Mexico and the United States." Drewey Wayne Gunn demonstrates how Mexican experiences had a singular impact upon the development of English writers, beginning with early British explorers who recorded their impressions for Hakluyt's Voyages, through the American Beats, who sought to escape the strictures of American culture.
Among the 140 or so writers considered are Stephen Crane, Ambrose Bierce, Langston Hughes, D. H. Lawrence, Somerset Maugham, Katherine Anne Porter, Hart Crane, Malcolm Lowry, John Steinbeck, Graham Greene, Tennessee Williams, Saul Bellow, William Carlos Williams, Robert Lowell, Ray Bradbury, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac.
Gunn finds that, while certain elements reflecting the Mexican experience—colors, landscape, manners, political atmosphere, a sense of the alien—are common in their writings, the authors reveal less about Mexico than they do about themselves. A Mexican sojourn often marked the beginning, the end, or the turning point in a literary career. The insights that this pioneering study provide into our complex cultural relationship with Mexico, so different from American and British authors' encounters with Continental cultures, remain vital. The book is essential for anyone interested in understanding the full range of the impact of the expatriate experience on writers.