I've been on a John McPhee jag lately. It started in about 1979 when an English prof handed me a copy of The Survival of the Bark Canoe while I waited for an appointment with my adviser. It wasn't like anything I'd ever read before. I loved the subject, and the writing even more.
Very recently I read Uncommon Carriers for book group. I loved the subject, and the writing even more. And I really get off on materials movement, to coin a library phrase. Moving stuff efficiently--cool. McPhee's chapter on UPS really floated my boat.
On finishing Carriers I wanted another McPhee title right then, didn't want to wait for the material to move, so I grabbed Looking for a Ship (1990) which was right there on the shelf. Even though it's almost twenty years old, and I knew next to nothing about the United States Merchant Marine, it was awesome. Again with the moving stuff around. Love it. Before I finished this one I put The Founding Fish on hold and it came from another branch with perfect timing. I finished the ship book and picked up the fish book. One of my "wish I coulda been a" professions is an ichthyologist, so I loved this also. But it's not about the fish--it's the writing.
dNow I have to go back in time and reread The Survival of the Bark Canoe (1975). It's been so long that it'll be like reading it for the first time. How did that English prof, whose name I can't even remember, know I'd like it? We talked for less than five minutes in a dusty half-basement hallway. Was it something I said? Was it a vibe he got from the enthusiastic brown-haired girl madly in love the Transcendentalists? Doubtful. I'm pretty sure it was McPhee. The man can't write a bad sentence as far as I can tell.
I don't normally make resolutions at the New Year--I feel like I'm setting myself up for failure--but I may make an exception this year. Maybe I'll resolve to read half of the books John McPhee has written to date. Hold on--I think that's something like 27 titles. Maybe I can read one third. How about if I just resolve to read everything he's written with no time-line? Yeah, that sounds good.