John McPhee

My literary Christmas present to fellow writers.
I just came across this New York Times Book review by Craig Taylor of THE PATCH by John McPhee. I’m not familiar with McPhee, but after this, I’m going to look him up, for a lot of reasons. Here’s a couple of excerpts.

“Here is the seventh collection of essays by John McPhee, his 33rd book and perhaps his eleventy-billionth word of published prose. This far into a prolific career, it may be a good time fo finally unmask the 87-year-old as a one trick pony. In “The Patch,” he again shamelessly employs his go-to strategy: crafting sentences so energetic and structurally sound that he can introduce apparently unappealing subjects, even ones that look to be encased in a cruddy veneer of boringness, and persuade us to care about them. He’s been working this angle since the 1950s; it’s a good thing we’re finally onto him now. . . . The second half of the book comprises an experiment called an “album quilt,” a montage of “fragments” of varying length from pieces done across the years, a mix of buffed and whittled snippets in which Joan Baez leads to Thomas Wolfe, and a profile of Barbara Streisand gives way to a disquisition on oared ships, and young Time magazine McPhee alternates with wise New Yorker McPhee. With 250,000 words available, McPhee says he cut 75 percent. He was left surveying a stack of heartwood.”

Merry Christmas.
Ben Leiter

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