Sunday, February 6, 2011

John McPhee

One of my heroes, John McPhee, was recently interviewed in the Paris Review as part of the publication's 'Art of Nonfiction' series.  McPhee's great subject was America and his writing has focused on technical, ecological and infrastructure considerations across the United States.  His corpus, when taken together feels as though it might encompass the breadth of the United States.  McPhee was one of the founders of so-called new journalism'.  His style of writing, while including elements of fiction, never devolved into the sort of angry polemic that characterized his most notable contemporary, Hunter S. Thompson.

McPhee has a way of enlightening certain aspects of things that might not otherwise be apparent.  I still remember rereading McPhee's piece on the Atchafalaya river basin from his book, The Control of Nature in late 2005 and realizing that, despite the mismanagement following Katrina, the very idea of controlling a river as powerful as the Mississippi could only be an act of hubris.

The interview linked to is eminently worth reading - as are previous 'Art of Nonfiction' interviewees, which has included the great Ryszard Kapuschinski among others.

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