BOOKS Silk Parachute AUTHOR John McPhee – cafe1919.org
The mazing thing Downright Dead about John McPhee is that he can hold one sttention even when the subject matter is not otherwise interesting The longest essays in Silk Parachute re bout lacrosse nd golf neither of which sports is to my taste Yet the great mass of details he presents somehow make the reader wonder what s next That is no mean talentTo date I have read dozen of McPhee s books Left Fur Dead and I m not finished yet A friend mentioned this book back in March saying she d read review of it that made her think she d like it nd wondering if I d heard of McPhee Since he writes for the New Yorker nd I m one of those New Yorker subscribers who reads every single rticle even if it doesn t immediately seem to be bout something I m interested in I figured I must have read his work but still couldn t place his name Then I looked in the New Yorker s digital Death by Tea archivend realized he d written Loyalty and Lies (Chastity Falls, a 2007 piece called Season on the Chalkbout the chalk landscapes of Europe including bits bout geology nd wine making By Way Of A Wager and WWII history which I d entirely forgottenbout until I saw it there But once I heard the title I remembered liking it so much I tore the whole thing out of the magazine nd kept it for while because it was just so good Here s the start of that essay which is included in this bookThe massive chalk of Europe lies below the English Channel under much of northern France under bits of Germany nd Scandinavia under the Limburg Province of the Netherlands nd from Erith Reach to Gravesend under fifteen miles of the lower Thames My grandson Tommaso ppears out of somewhere nd picks up When Kingdom Comes a cobble from the bottom of the Thames The tide is out The flatsre broad between the bank nd the water Small boats canted re The Wayward Bride (Besotted Scots, at rest on the riverbed Others farther out on the wide riverre moored float skiffs sloops yawl or two Tommaso is ten The rock in his hand is large but light He breaks it Such a Dance against the revetment bordering the Gordon Promenade in the Riverside Leisure Area with benchesnd lawns under oaks nd chestnuts prams nd children picnics under way newspapers spread like sails nd far up the bank stall selling ice cream He cracks the cobble into jagged pieces which re whiter than snow Chalked graffiti line the revetment nd have ttracted the ttention of Tommaso who now starts his own with the letter R p 9I love that so much the pace of it the way it sets the scene I love this whole essay for the way it s La bte du marais about landscapeplace the way it mingles broad historical fact with personal experience I love how wonderfully precise McPhee can be with sentences like this Anrmada of swans in single file swims out from near the shore Laos: Keystone Of Indochina and toward the center of the river thirty eight swans p 10 And while others of McPhee s essays don t excite me uites much I still How Foreign Policy Decisions Are Made In The Third World admire the way he writes the carend pleasure it seems he takes in it whether he s writing bout his mother or canoeing or eating unusual meats puffin weasel bear or lacrosseYes I sometimes wished that particular essay which is 58 pages would hurry up nd be done Geeking Out on 11C already but that s comment on my tastes than on McPhee s writing And when I did finish the essay on lacrosse moving on to Et ainsi de suite an essaybout The Shoshoni Cookbook antiue view camerashis daughter s photographic collaborations with Virginia Beahan really pleasing landscapes like thisnd this I forgot my boredom Historias sobre los Fondos Bahá'ís and was delightedll over Reasoning with the Infinite: From the Closed World to the Mathematical Universe again by the McPhee s particular mix of descriptionnd detail Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do About It and humor Also really pleasingn essay bout unusual foods n essay bout fact checking that s in large part paean to fact checkers John McPhee is wonderful writer In this collection of essays he takes us on tours of the chalky Cretaceous deposits that underly the English Channel nd spans Southern England nd Northern France the history nd emerging popularity of lacrosse the painstaking process of capturing images with Deardorff camera nd the thorough nature of the New Yorker fact checking team to name few The uniting factor in these essays is McPhee s plain nd elegant prose He has marvelous way of leading the reader patiently down into the weeds of whatever topic he has chosen nd once he is down there teaching you something I didn t give this collection high rating because unlike Co. A WONDROUS NEW BOOK OF MCPHEE'S PROSE PIECES IN MANY ASPECTS HIS MOST PERSONAL IN FOUR DECADES The brief brilliant essay Silk Parachute which first ppeared in The New Yorker Mr Darcy's Cottage of Earthly Delights: Shades of Pride and Prejudice a decadego has become John McPhee's most nthologized piece of writing In the nine other pieces here highly varied in length nd theme McPhee ranges with his characteristic humor nd intensity through lacrosse long exposure view came.
Ming Into the Country it had no thematic through line Silk Parachute is collection of random essays from the New Yorker nd they re each insularly delightful but do not really make n impression s The Cat Who Lived with Anne Frank a whole unless youre student of McPhee s style But for this The Myth of Genesis and Exodus and the Exclusion of Their African Origins alone I would recommend the book McPhee is good reminder that you don t have to do nything fancy to write with poise nd beauty This is the cool stuff that they don t teach in school Rattlesnakes for ll their evolutionary perfection re not the brightest creatures If Yoga Kitchen: Divine Recipes from the Shoshoni Yoga Retreat a line of people walks past rattlesnake it Design Works: How to Tackle Your Toughest Innovation Challenges Through Business Design aimst the first person strikes t the second nd hits the third In the way that placer miner can look t nugget nd say what stream it came from lacrosse coach can watch n unknown player for while nd write down his home ddress The performance enhancing food for Olympic marathoners nd such is Vespa mandarinia japonica ctually synthetic hornet juice but what our uthor calls bee spit The Japanese giant hornet flies bout hundred kilometers day ingesting but not digesting small insects which it carries home in globular form to feed its larvae The juice that goes for the gold is in the larvae While the dult feeds the larvae the larvae reciprocate with fresh juice Loyalty and Lies (Chastity Falls, a blend of seventeenmino cids If y Two delightful long essays nd 8 short ones that simply tantalize Season on the Chalk compresses history nd geology of chalk in England nd continental Europe in Jeep. Sur les traces de la lgende a fine thread with surprising peoplend events from the Romans who build much with chalk to modern champaign rbors which depend on chalk holding water Spin Right nd Shoot Left is The Abbeyville Way a fun ride on the history of lacrosse Like good chef McPhee makes reliably good dish out of vailable ingredients Stations of the Lost: The Treatment of Skid Row Alcoholics at hand making lie out of ny initial perspective that you know nothing bout Treasure Diver (Choose Your Own Adventure, and care littlebout lacrosse Started by the Iriuois Nations in the 19th century how was it that it was A Shot at Love adopted first by Ivy Leaguend prep schools then moved to hotbeds Balti Long Island Old Records Never Die: One Man's Quest for His Vinyl and His Past and Colorado then grew exponentially Between 2007nd 2009 600 new public high schools Ask an Astronaut adopted the sport Readnd learn Dead of Night about how it hasffinity with basketball than The Voyage Unplanned any other sport I just love McPhee I found myself reading long essay on lacrosse with deep The Dwelling almost emotional interest And lacrosse has neverppealed to me before That s what great writing can doBut my favorite pieces re two short memoir type essays one on canoeing nd one the title essayI fervently hope Mr McPhee never dies It s landscape with the spect of memoryLaura McPhee or Virginia Beahan talking Vienna 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made War, Peace, and Love at the Congress of Vienna about the landscaperound Trenton NJ I m not sure who exactly is being uoted it might be slight narrative llusion to the title nd subject of this essay nd McPhee is playing with the reader Adaptations: From Short Story to Big Screen: 35 Great Stories That Have Inspired Great Films a bit in Under the Cloth by John McPheeI bought this booklmost 8 years go I m not sure why I didn t read it in 2010 It was shelved next to the remaining 8 9 McPhee books I haven t read nd not forgotten just posponed Well I jumped back into reading McPhee gain I can t sip McPhee he is best consumed in large uantities until exhausted I was sent copy of his most recent book of essays The Patch And it got me rolling Easy again I want to finish catch up complete McPhee before he is 90 March 8 2021 So I need to get to workgain The book consists of several six essays that Morrissey y los atormentados appeared in the New Yorker no surprise to ANYONE the least bit familiar with either the New Yorker or McPhee Itlso begins nd ends with short essays nd Real Magic: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science, and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe also includes couple essays not found outside this book that I can find1 Silk Parachute A short beautiful introductory essay Interview with the Vampire about his mothernd childhood2 Season on the Chalk 31220073 Swimming with Canoes 81019984 Warming the Jump Seat A short essay Emma of Aurora (Change and Cherish Historical about writingbout Mr Boyden headmaster of Deerfield Academy profiled in two rticles in the New Yorker in 1966 nd eventually put into The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table a book published by FSG titled The Headmaster Frank L Boyden of Deerfield 5 Spin Rightnd Shoot Left 32320096 Under the Cloth An essay bout the dual photography of McPhee s daughter Laura I just ordered couple of her books on nd Virginia Beahan formversion of this essay originally Ravished by a Duke appeareds n fterword in Ra photography the weird foods he has sometimes been served in the course of his reportorial travels US Open golf championship nd season in Europe on the chalk from the downs nd sea cliffs of England to the Maas valley in the Netherlands Deep Lane: Poems and the champagne country of northern France Some of the piecesre wholly personal In luminous recollections of his early years for example he goes on outings with
Heir book of photographs titled No Ordinary Land Encounters in Komisario Nuusku ja makkaratehtaan arvoitus a Changing Environment I was happy to see that Ariel Katz in her wonderful essay Photographynd Language in John McPhee s Under the Cloth came way with the same impression I did earlier nd bove in my lead uote by Laura or Virginia The way McPhee structures his essay mirrors his subject matter much of the dialogue in the essay isn t ttributed to either photographer giving their words the effect of having emerged Our Necessary Shadow: The Nature and Meaning of Psychiatry at timess chorus from inside the camera with which they work Although they re making visual rt language The Online Diary of a Masochistic Submissive as McPhee observes is key to their collaboration He writes Neither one is hesitant with words In the span of their work together words by the tens of thousands in every conceivable category have been muffled by the dark cloth 7 My Life List 9320078 Checkpoints 2920099 Rip Van Golfer 86200710 Nowheres A touchingnd brief concluding essay on the beauty of New Jersy McPhee s homeAnyway you can read 610 of essays nd probably 810 of the text directly from the New Yorker if you don t run out of free views I did just checking for this essay or you can subscribe I will next year or you can just buy the damn book from FSG It really was delight on Industry and Empire: The Birth of the Industrial Revolution a day of delights Thanksgiving Im grateful every year for John McPhee When I was magazine editor I lways held up McPhee s model for my writers Find subject that hasn t been overdone I would say then research the hell out of it nd write bout it beautifully Easier said than done of course McPhee is the master of the gee whiz rticle the one that tells you My Lady Viper all sorts of stuff that you didn t know you didn t know or that youre fascinated to find out Sunflower about Granted even I didn t want to knows much bout the Swiss rmy Periyar: A Political Biography of E.V. Ramasamy as McPhee decided to tell his New Yorker readers And maybe McPhee got too fascinated by geology leaving some of us wishing for stuff like Oranges or The Pine Barrens And maybe Tracy Kidder has lately been leaving McPhee in the dust But I don t knownyone who writes better prose fiction or non fiction The prose is still good in this volume but it s on the whole disappointing What strikes me most especially bout the longer pieces in the book is the lack of structure in McPhee s essays In Season on the Chalk he hops bout from place to place in England Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home and France with only the loosest of transitions he lards Spin Rightnd Shoot Left with lists nd catalogs such s the roster of fifty three colleges that sent coaches to n exhibition of potential varsity lacrosse players his piece on the US Open golf tournament Rip Van Golfer is distractingly scattered mong observations of place observations of players nd observations of himself s observer It doesn t help that I have little interest in either lacrosse or golf but McPhee used to be ble to hold my interest in even things that I wouldn t be inclined to read bout Still no magazine writer that I know of finds curious nd illuminating things to say bout whatever he writes bout I just wish for n editor that would prune his excesses Not Commit!: Unlock Your Full Potential and Learn to Lead Yourself as goods the best McPhee but still better than most writing fiction or non fiction Checkpoints bout New Yorker magazine fact checkers made me laugh out loud Read it Given the way things re these days even Announcing Trouble a single laugh should be pursued forll it s worth My Life List bout unusual things he has eaten while doing the journalism thing was lso The Book of Revelation: amusingMcPhee is loving grandfather now I m the sort of big grump who d rather read The Sound of Music Story: How A Beguiling Young Novice, A Handsome Austrian Captain, and Ten Singing von Trapp Children Inspired the Most Beloved Film of All Time about the Swiss Army oranges or nuclear physics than description of someone s Edward Keating: Main Street: The Lost Dream of Route 66 adorable moppet of grandchild so these moments had limited interest to me But I thought the one bout his daughter who for some reason lugs round really old school camera the type you peer through under black drape was pretty interesting Worth getting out of the library Cold Blood and picking up from time to time My first complete McPheend this was fun Narrative non fiction slowly meticulously Calibre (Inspector Brant, almost wondrously crafted You can feel it in the rhythm of the words sometimes A couple of pieces in Silk Parachutere suibs but the two long pieces on Lacrosse nd Golf than make up for them Anyway there s lot of him to read nd this one may be good star. Is mother deliberately overturns canoes in learning process t The Dirty Game: Uncovering the Scandal at FIFA a summer campnd germinates future book while riding on jump seat to way games s April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici a basketball player But each piece on whatever theme contains somewhere personal No Life But This aspect in which McPhee suggests why he wasttracted to write bout the subject nd each opens like silk parachute lofted skyward nd suddenly blossoming with color nd for.
John McPhee ☆ 6 read
John McPhee was born in Princeton New Jersey and was educated at Princeton University and Cambridge University His writing career began at Time magazine and led to his long association with the New Yorker where he has been a staff writer since 1965 The same year he published his first book A Sense of Where You Are with FSG and soon followed with The Headmaster 1966 Oranges 1967 The P