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"It is possible in managing a quote--not to say manipulating a quote--to present something that is both verbatim and false."
- John McPhee, Draft No. 4
John McPhee is a God. Not a minor deity either. A big "G" god. He isn't just good at the craft of writing nonfiction, he is the craft. Or at least that is how he seems. This perception, this read, of John McPhee only grows the more of his books, articles, etc., the reader consumes. You don't have to be passionate about geology. It is OK. McPhee is. You don't have to care about oranges. McPhee does. What happens is his writing, his interests, his ability to construct a story from the perfect characters and the right place transforms not just the object of McPhee's interest, but the reader. Am I sounding too passionate about this man? Well, of course I'm passionate. I love to read and John McPhee contains multitudes.
Not only is he the Master at the New Yorker, but he has for years (probably since I was near tit) taught writing at Princeton (where he went to school). Can you imagine? Seriously, if I could chose between a $1 million and the ability to audit his course on Creative Nonfiction (JRN 240/CWR 240), I might just say F-it to the money. He has nurtured readers and writers for years. Some of the direct fruit of the McPhee tree include:
- David Remnick (now his editor at the New Yorker)
- Richard Stengel (managing editor of Time magazine)
- Jim Kelly (former managing editor of Time)
- Robert Wright (former senior editor at The New Republic)
- Jennifer Weiner
And many, many more including at least two of his daughters (Jenny and Martha). He really is the godfather (or at least one of the godfathers) of New New Journalism. In an age when good writing seems to be as rare as good readers (dammit, I should probably scratch that pun, too easy), it is nice to read about the craftsmanship of writing from one of the masters.
'Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process' collects eight essays on writing that McPhee has published in the New Yorker (McPhee's home since before I was born). They are:
Progression - 11/14/2014
Structure - 01/14/2013
Editors & Publisher - 07/02/2012
Elicitation - 04/07/2014
Frame of Reference - 03/09/2015
Checkpoints - 02/09/2009
Draft No. 4 - 04/29/2013
Omission - 09/14/2014
17 of 19 people found this review helpful
This is real inside baseball for the McPhee obsessives and I thought it was excellent. I am glad that he went into such detail with his process and the evolution of his creative process and the journalistic field.
This is definitely not the first McPhee you want to read. Start with Oranges and then read every one after that and finish on this one. It'll take about a year and it'll be great.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful