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John McPhee
JohnMcphee crop.jpg
Born John Angus McPhee
March 8, 1931 (1931-03-08) (age 78)
Princeton, New Jersey
Occupation Writer

John Angus McPhee (born 8 March 1931) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer widely considered one of the pioneers of narrative nonfiction.

Unlike Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson, who helped kick-start the "new journalism" which remolded nonfiction in the 1960s, McPhee produced a gentler style of literary journalism by incorporating techniques from novels and other forms of fiction. McPhee avoided the attention-grabbing streams of consciousness of Wolfe and Thompson, but his detailed description of characters, insatiable appetite for details, and masterful style make his writing lively, readable, and personal, even when it focuses on obscure or difficult topics. He is highly regarded among fellow writers for the quality and quantity of his literary output.[1]

Contents

Background

McPhee was born in Princeton, New Jersey, the son of the Princeton University athletic department's physician, Dr. Harry McPhee. John was educated at Princeton High School, then spent a postgraduate year at Deerfield Academy, before attending Princeton University and the University of Cambridge.

While at Princeton, McPhee went to New York once or twice a week to appear as the juvenile panelist on the radio and television quiz program Twenty Questions.[2]

Twice married, McPhee is the father of four daughters, among them the novelists Jenny McPhee and Martha McPhee[3], and photographer Laura McPhee.

Writing career

McPhee's first book (1965), was a profile of Princeton senior – and future pro basketball star – Bill Bradley

McPhee's writing career began at Time magazine and led to a long association with The New Yorker weekly magazine beginning in 1965 and continuing to the present. Many of his twenty-nine books include material originally written for that magazine.

McPhee has received many literary honors, including the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1999, awarded for Annals of the Former World. In 1978 McPhee received a Litt.D. from Bates College, and in 2009 he received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Yale University.

McPhee's subjects, reflecting his personal interests, are highly eclectic. He has written pieces on lifting body development (The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed), the United States Merchant Marine (Looking for a Ship), farmers' markets (Giving Good Weight), the shifting flow of the Mississippi River (The Control of Nature), geology (in several books), as well as a short book entirely on the subject of oranges. One of his most widely read books, Coming into the Country, is about the Alaska wilderness. His most recent book, Uncommon Carriers, published 16 May 2006, is about freight transportation.

McPhee has profiled a number of famous people, including conservationist David Brower and the young Bill Bradley, whom McPhee followed closely during Bradley's four-year basketball career at Princeton University. The resulting book, A Sense of Where You Are, is a classic of non-fiction writing -- a literary craftsman's admiring profile of a basketball craftsman. But some of McPhee's most memorable work describes people who work out of the limelight: a builder of birch bark canoes (Henri Vaillancourt), a bush pilot, and a French-speaking wine maker in the Swiss army.

Teaching

McPhee is also a renowned nonfiction writing instructor at Princeton University, having taught generations of aspiring undergraduate writers, many of whom have achieved distinction in literature and journalism. Among his former students are David Remnick, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and current editor of The New Yorker; Richard Stengel and Jim Kelly, the current and former managing editors of Time magazine; journalist Robert Wright, former senior editor at The New Republic and columnist for Time, Slate and the New York Times, and author of award-winning books; and Peter Hessler, The New Yorker's China correspondent. McPhee still teaches his writing seminar two years out of every three, most recently during the spring 2009 semester.[4]

Awards

Works

  • A Sense of Where You Are (1965) ISBN 0-374-51485-2
  • The Headmaster (1966) ISBN 0-374-16860-1
  • Oranges (1967) ISBN 0-374-22688-1
  • The Pine Barrens (1968) ISBN 0-374-23360-8.
  • A Roomful of Hovings and Other Profiles ISBN 0-374-51501-8 (collection, 1969)
  • Levels of the Game (1969) ISBN 0-374-51526-3. Explores the relationship between two champion tennis players.
  • The Crofter and the Laird (1969) ISBN 0-374-13192-9
  • Encounters with the Archdruid (1972) ISBN 0-374-14822-8.
  • The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed (1973)ISBN 0-374-51635-9. Story of the Aereon, a combination aerodyne / aerostat a.k.a. hybrid airship.
  • The Curve of Binding Energy (1974) ISBN 0-374-13373-5
  • Pieces of the Frame (collection, 1975) ISBN 0-374-51498-4
  • The Survival of the Bark Canoe (1975) ISBN 0-374-27207-7
  • The John McPhee Reader (collection, 1977) ISBN 0-374-17992-1
  • Coming into the Country (1977) ISBN 0-374-52287-1
  • Giving Good Weight (collection, 1979) ISBN 0-374-16306-5
  • Basin and Range (1981) ISBN 0-374-10914-1. Republished in Annals of the Former World.
  • In Suspect Terrain (1983) ISBN 0-374-17650-7. Republished in Annals of the Former World.
  • La Place de la Concorde Suisse (1984) ISBN 0-374-51932-3
  • Table of Contents (collection, 1985) ISBN 0-374-52008-9
  • Rising from the Plains (1986) ISBN 0-374-25082-0. Republished in Annals of the Former World.
  • Heirs of General Practice (1986) ISBN 0-374-51974-9
  • The Control of Nature (1989) ISBN 0-374-12890-1
  • Looking for a Ship (1990) ISBN 0-374-19077-1
  • Assembling California (1993) ISBN 0-374-52393-2. Republished in Annals of the Former World.
  • The Ransom of Russian Art (1994) ISBN 0-374-24682-3
  • The Second John McPhee Reader (1996) ISBN 0-374-52463-7
  • Irons in the Fire (1997) ISBN 0-374-17726-0
  • Annals of the Former World (1998) ISBN 0-374-10520-0. Compilation of five stories on geology. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1999.
  • The Founding Fish (2002) ISBN 0-374-10444-1
  • The American Shad: Selections from the Founding Fish (2004) ISBN 1-886967-14-8 (limited edition)
  • Uncommon Carriers (2006) ISBN 0-374-28039-8

Notes

  1. ^ While being interviewed on the 27 August 2009 edition of Radio West (KUER, Salt Lake City, Utah), writer Christopher Cokinos said that he has a sign above his desk which says Too tired to write? John McPhee isn't.
  2. ^ "A Letter From The Publisher: 23 Nov. 1962". Time. 1962-11-23. ISSN 0040-718X. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,829455,00.html. Retrieved 2008-09-18.  
  3. ^ Birnbaum, Robert (25 December 2002). "Jenny & Martha McPhee". Identity Theory. http://www.identitytheory.com/people/birnbaum79.html. Retrieved 2008-03-16.  
  4. ^ http://registrar.princeton.edu/timetable/course_details.xml?courseid=003788&term=1094

External links

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John McPhee
File:JohnMcphee
Born John Angus McPhee
March 8, 1931 (1931-03-08) (age 79)
Princeton, New Jersey
Occupation Writer

John Angus McPhee (born 8 March 1931) is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, widely considered one of the pioneers of narrative nonfiction.

Unlike Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson, who helped kick-start the "new journalism" in the 1960s, McPhee produced a gentler, literary style of journalism by incorporating techniques from fiction. McPhee avoided the streams of consciousness of Wolfe and Thompson, but detailed description of characters and appetite for details make his writing lively and personal, even when it focuses on obscure or difficult topics. He is highly regarded by fellow writers for his literary output.[1]

Contents

Background

McPhee was born in Princeton, New Jersey, the son of the Princeton University athletic department's physician, Dr. Harry McPhee. John was educated at Princeton High School, then spent a postgraduate year at Deerfield Academy, before attending Princeton University and the University of Cambridge.

While at Princeton, McPhee went to New York once or twice a week to appear as the juvenile panelist on the radio and television quiz program Twenty Questions.[2]

Twice married, McPhee is the father of four daughters, among them the novelists Jenny McPhee and Martha McPhee,[3] and photographer Laura McPhee.

Writing career

[[File:|thumb|right|175px|McPhee's first book (1965), was a profile of Princeton senior – and future pro basketball star – Bill Bradley]]

McPhee's writing career began at Time magazine and led to a long association with The New Yorker weekly magazine beginning in 1965 and continuing to the present. Many of his twenty-nine books include material originally written for that magazine.

McPhee has received many literary honors, including the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1999, awarded for Annals of the Former World. In 1978 McPhee received a Litt.D. from Bates College, and in 2009 he received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Yale University.

McPhee's subjects, reflecting his personal interests, are highly eclectic. He has written pieces on lifting body development (The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed), the United States Merchant Marine (Looking for a Ship), farmers' markets (Giving Good Weight), the shifting flow of the Mississippi River (The Control of Nature), geology (in several books), as well as a short book entirely on the subject of oranges. One of his most widely read books, Coming into the Country, is about the Alaska wilderness. His most recent book, Uncommon Carriers, published 16 May 2006, is about freight transportation.

McPhee has profiled a number of famous people, including conservationist David Brower and the young Bill Bradley, whom McPhee followed closely during Bradley's four-year basketball career at Princeton University. The resulting book, A Sense of Where You Are, is a classic of non-fiction writing – a literary craftsman's admiring profile of a basketball craftsman. But some of McPhee's most memorable work describes people who work out of the limelight: a builder of birch bark canoes (Henri Vaillancourt), a bush pilot, and a French-speaking wine maker in the Swiss army.

Teaching

McPhee is also a renowned nonfiction writing instructor at Princeton University, having taught generations of aspiring undergraduate writers, many of whom have achieved distinction in literature and journalism. Among his former students are David Remnick, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and current editor of The New Yorker; Richard Stengel and Jim Kelly, the current and former managing editors of Time magazine; journalist Robert Wright, former senior editor at The New Republic and columnist for Time, Slate and the New York Times, and author of award-winning books; and Peter Hessler, The New Yorker's China correspondent. McPhee still teaches his writing seminar two years out of every three, most recently during the spring 2009 semester.

Awards and honors

Works

References

Notes
  1. ^ While being interviewed on the 27 August 2009 edition of Radio West (KUER, Salt Lake City, Utah), writer Christopher Cokinos said that he has a sign above his desk which says Too tired to write? John McPhee isn't.
  2. ^ "A Letter From The Publisher: 23 Nov. 1962". Time. 1962-11-23. ISSN 0040-718X. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,829455,00.html. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  3. ^ Birnbaum, Robert (25 December 2002). "Jenny & Martha McPhee". Identity Theory. http://www.identitytheory.com/people/birnbaum79.html. Retrieved 2008-03-16. 

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

John Angus McPhee (born 8 March 1931) is an American writer and journalist.

Sourced

  • You see the rivers running east. Then you see mountains rise. Rivers run off them to the west. Mountains come up like waves. They crest, break, and spread themselves westward. When they are spent, there is an interval of time, and then again you see the rivers running eastward. You look over the shoulder of the painter and you see all that in the landscape. You see it if first you have seen it in the rock. The composition is almost infinitely less than the sum of its parts, the flickers and glimpses of a thousand million years.
    • Annals of the Former World, Book 2: In Suspect Terrain, page 209.
  • If by some fiat I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence, this is the one I would choose: The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone.

External links

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