John McPhee

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For other people named John McPhee, see John McPhee (disambiguation).
John McPhee
John Mcphee.jpg
Born John Angus McPhee
(1931-03-08) March 8, 1931 (age 85)
Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Occupation Writer
Spouse(s) Yolanda Whitman (2nd wife)
Children four daughters of first marriage, Jenny, Martha, Laura, Sarah

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[1] (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."[2]

Since 1974, McPhee has been the Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University.[3]

Background[edit]

McPhee has lived in Princeton, New Jersey, for most of his 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 graduating from Princeton University in 1953,[4] and spending a year at Magdalene College, University of Cambridge.[5]

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.[6] One of his roommates at Princeton was 1951 Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier.[7]

Twice married, McPhee is the father of four daughters: the novelists Jenny McPhee and Martha McPhee, photographer Laura McPhee, and architecture historian Sarah McPhee.[8][9]

Writing career[edit]

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.

Unlike Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson, who helped kick-start the "new journalism" in the 1960s, McPhee produced a gentler, more literary style of journalism that more thoroughly incorporated 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.[10][11]

McPhee's subjects, reflecting his personal interests, are highly eclectic. He has written pieces on lifting body development (The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed), the psyche and experience of a nuclear engineer (The Curve of Binding Energy), 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 in Encounters with the Archdruid and the young Bill Bradley, whom McPhee followed closely during Bradley's four-year basketball career at Princeton University.

Teaching[edit]

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 2016 semester.[12]

Many of McPhee's students have achieved distinction for their writing:[9]

Awards and honors[edit]

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.

Bibliography[edit]

Books[edit]

Title Date Publication Details Notes
A sense of where you are : a profile of William Warren Bradley 1965 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-51485-2
A profile of Hall of Fame basketball player and Rhodes Scholar Bill Bradley.
The headmaster : Frank L. Boyden, of Deerfield 1966 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-16860-1
Biography of Frank Boyden, long time headmaster of Deerfield Academy.
Oranges 1967 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-22688-1
The history and significance of the farming of oranges, how farmers have struggled with frost and how horticulturists have introduced new breeds of citrus.
The Pine Barrens 1968 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-23360-8
The story of the near wilderness central area of New Jersey, known since the seventeenth century as the Pine Barrens.
A roomful of Hovings and other profiles 1968 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-51501-8
Collection.
Levels of the game 1969 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-51526-3
Explores the relationship between two tennis players, Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner, and their tennis match at Forest Hills in 1968.
The crofter and the laird 1970 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-13192-9
A memoir of the author's stay with his family on the island of Colonsay in Scotland, where his forebears had been raised.
Encounters with the archdruid 1971 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-14822-8
Journeys through three wildernesses - on a coastal island, in a western mountain range, and on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
The deltoid pumpkin seed 1973 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-51635-9
Story of the Aereon, a combination aerodyne/aerostat, a.k.a. hybrid airship.
The curve of binding energy 1974 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-13373-5
Traveling American nuclear institutions with Theodore Taylor, one of the founders of those technologies. Finalist for the National Book Award.[14]
Pieces of the frame 1975 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-51498-4
Collection.
The survival of the bark canoe 1975 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-27207-7
The story of the ancient craft of making birch-bark canoes, still practiced by a builder in a small town in New Hampshire.
The John McPhee reader 1976 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-17992-1
Collection of excerpts from his first twelve books, edited by William L. Howarth.
Coming into the country 1977 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-52287-1
The story of Alaska and the Alaskans.
Giving good weight 1979 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-16306-5
Collection.
Basin and range 1981 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-10914-1
First in his 'Annals of the Former World' series of books on geology and geologists. Republished in Annals of the Former World. Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.[1]
In suspect terrain 1983 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-17650-7
Second book in his 'Annals of the Former World' series on geology and geologists, from the outwash plains of Brooklyn to the Appalachian landscape. Republished in Annals of the former world.
La Place de la Concorde Suisse 1984 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-18241-8
The study of the Swiss Army's role in Swiss society.
Table of contents 1985 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-27241-7
Collection.
Heirs of general practice 1986 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-51974-9
Stories of young doctors who specialize in family practice. Also included in the Table of contents collection.
Rising from the plains 1986 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-25082-0
Third book in his 'Annals of the Former World' series on geology and geologists, covering the Rockies and surrounding areas. Republished in Annals of the former world. Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.[1]
The control of nature 1989 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-12890-1
The story of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and their efforts to control the waters of the U.S.
Looking for a ship 1990 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-19077-1
The story of one of the last American merchant ships. Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.[1]
Assembling California 1993 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-10645-2
Fourth book in his 'Annals of the Former World' series on geology and geologists. Surveys throughout California and elsewhere, describing the geologic history of the land. Republished in Annals of the former world.
The ransom of Russian art 1994 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-24682-3
The story of how an American professor of Soviet economics managed to remove thousands of works of art in the 1960s and 1970s from the Soviet Union to the U.S.
The second John McPhee reader 1996 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-52463-7
Collection of excerpts from previously published stories, edited by Patricia Strachan.
Irons in the fire 1997 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-17726-0
Collection of essays. The title essay describes a trip to Nevada where, accompanying a brand inspector, the author discovers that cattle rustling is still practiced.
Annals of the former world 1998 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-10520-0
Compilation of four previously published books on geology, plus a final part, "Crossing the craton". Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1999.
The founding fish 2002 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-10444-1
The history of the shad, going back to the days of George Washington and Henry David Thoreau.
The American shad : selections from The founding fish 2004 Far Hills, N.J. : Meadow Run Press
ISBN 1-886967-14-8
Limited edition.
Uncommon carriers 2006 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-28039-8
Essays on travels by several unconventional means, primarily ocean and water freight transportation.
Silk parachute 2010 New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 0-374-26373-6
Collection.

Essays and reporting[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "General Nonfiction". Past winners & finalists by category. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2012-04-11.
  2. ^ http://www.liu.edu/About/News/Univ-Ctr-PR/Pre-2008/February/GP-Press-Release-Feb-2008
  3. ^ http://humanities.princeton.edu/journalism/roster.html
  4. ^ https://www.princeton.edu/pr/home/99/0415-mcphee/hmcap.html
  5. ^ http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/355264/John-McPhee
  6. ^ "A Letter From The Publisher: 23 Nov. 1962". Time. November 23, 1962. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved September 18, 2008. 
  7. ^ http://paw.princeton.edu/issues/2008/11/19/pages/1716/
  8. ^ Birnbaum, Robert (December 25, 2002). "Jenny & Martha McPhee". Identity Theory. Retrieved March 16, 2008. 
  9. ^ a b Peter Hessler (Spring 2010). "The Art of Nonfiction No. 3, John McPhee". The Paris Review. Retrieved October 2, 2011. 
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Royte, Elizabeth (March 21, 2010). "At Close Range". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ "Course Details « Office of the Registrar". Princeton University. Retrieved March 19, 2012. 
  13. ^ http://ilovemarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/I-Love-Marketing-013.pdf
  14. ^ a b "National Book Awards – 1975". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-04-11.

References[edit]

  • 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.

External links[edit]