|Born||John Angus McPhee
March 8, 1931
Princeton, New Jersey, USA
John Angus McPhee (born March 8, 1931) is an American writer, widely considered one of the pioneers of creative nonfiction. He is a four-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the category General Nonfiction and he won that award on the fourth occasion in 1999 for Annals of the Former World (a collection of five books including two of his previous Pulitzer finalists). In 2008 he received the George Polk Career Award for his "indelible mark on American journalism during his nearly half-century career."
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 the quality, quantity, and diversity of his literary output.
Since 1974, McPhee has been the Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University.
McPhee has resided in Princeton, New Jersey, almost his entire life. He was born in Princeton, 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. One of his roommates at Princeton was 1951 Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier.
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 1999 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, awarded for Annals of the Former World. In 1978 McPhee received a Litt.D. from Bates College, in 2009 he received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Yale University, and in 2012 he received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Amherst College.
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), freight transportation (Uncommon Carriers), 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 Alaskan wilderness.
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.
McPhee is also a renowned nonfiction writing instructor at Princeton University, having taught generations of aspiring undergraduate writers. McPhee still teaches his writing seminar two years out of every three, most recently during the spring 2012 semester.
Many of McPhee's students have achieved distinction for their writing:
- David Remnick, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and current editor-in-chief of The New Yorker
- Richard Stengel, the current managing editor of Time magazine
- Jim Kelly, the former managing editor of Time
- 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
- Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and other books
- Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone and other books about infectious disease epidemics and bioterrorism
- Peter Hessler, contributor to The New Yorker and author of three books about China
- Timothy Ferriss, entrepreneur and author of New York Times bestsellers The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body
Awards and honors
- Pulitzer Prize (1999) for Annals of the Former World
- Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1977)
- finalist, National Book Award (science) for The Curve of Binding Energy
- nominated, National Book Award (science) for Encounters with the Archdruid
- Wallace Stegner Award (2011) for "sustained contribution to the cultural identity of the West through literature, art, history, lore, or an understanding of the West."
- 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 (1971) 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 —finalist for the National Book Award
- 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. —finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
- 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. —finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
- 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 —finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
- 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
- Silk Parachute (2010) ISBN 0-374-26373-6
- "General Nonfiction". Past winners & finalists by category. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2012-04-11.
- While being interviewed on the August 27, 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.
- Royte, Elizabeth (March 21, 2010). "At Close Range". The New York Times.
- "A Letter From The Publisher: 23 Nov. 1962". Time. 1962-11-23. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2008-09-18.
- Birnbaum, Robert (December 25, 2002). "Jenny & Martha McPhee". Identity Theory. Retrieved 2008-03-16.
- Interviewed by Peter Hessler. "The Art of Nonfiction No. 3, John McPhee". Paris Review. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
- "Course Details « Office of the Registrar". Princeton University. Retrieved 2012-03-19.
- "National Book Awards – 1975". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-04-11.
- Weltzein, O. Alan and Susan N. Maher (2003). Coming into McPhee Country: John McPhee and the Art of Literary Criticism. ISBN 978-0-87480-746-2.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: John McPhee|
- Publisher's official web site
- Peter Hessler (Spring 2010). "John McPhee, The Art of Nonfiction No. 3". The Paris Review.
- John McPhee interviewed on WPRB Princeton 103.3 FM's Discourse