Learning to live and write like John McPhee of The New Yorker

November 27, 2017 | Writing


John McPhee — perhaps the most revered narrative nonfiction journalist of our time — has just authored his 30th book, this one is titled Draft No. 4, and it is an explanation of the writing process. McPhee’s publisher is presenting it as a “master class” on the craft of writing, McPhee-style.

New York Times Magazine, in a major feature about the 86-year-old McPhee, writes that he has built a career on “small detonations of knowledge.” His mind is pure curiosity. It aspires to flow into every last corner of the world, especially the places most of us overlook. Literature has always sought transcendence in purportedly trivial subjects (“a world in a grain of sand,” as Blake put it) but few have ever pushed the impulse further than McPhee. He once wrote an entire book about oranges, called, simply, Oranges. In 1999, McPhee won a Pulitzer Prize for his 700-page geology collection, Annals of the Former World, which explains for the general reader how all of North America came to exist.

Click here to read the article, written by Sam Anderson, a book reviewer, author, and critic at large for The New York Times Magazine.

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