Rising from the Plains

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Overview

Rising from the Plains is John McPhee’s third book on geology and geologists. Following Basin and Range and In Suspect Terrain, it continues to present a cross section of North America along the fortieth parallel—a series gathering under the overall title Annals of the Former World.

Stories that represent three distinct time frames: the working life of David Love as environmental supervisor of the U.S. Geological Survey, the story of his parents and a childhood ...

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Rising from the Plains

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Overview

Rising from the Plains is John McPhee’s third book on geology and geologists. Following Basin and Range and In Suspect Terrain, it continues to present a cross section of North America along the fortieth parallel—a series gathering under the overall title Annals of the Former World.

Stories that represent three distinct time frames: the working life of David Love as environmental supervisor of the U.S. Geological Survey, the story of his parents and a childhood spent on the isolated Western frontier, and the geological pedigree of Wy

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Mr. McPhee has created a style—blending detailed reporting with a novelistic sense of narrative—and a standard that have influenced a whole generation of journalists.” —Timothy Bay, The Baltimore Sun

 

“McPhee rides shotgun across Wyoming in a four-wheel-drive Bronco while the geologist David Love steers, lectures, and reminisces....This instructive account of the geologic West and the frontier West is a delight.”—Evan S. Connell, The New York Times Book Review

Library Journal
Although it stands well on its own, this book can be viewed as a continuation of McPhee's Basin and Range ( LJ 4/1/81) and In Suspect Terrain ( LJ 4/1/83). As in those earlier works, the central theme of this book is the geology of an area near Interstate 80, this time the Rocky Mountains and adjacent terrain in Wyoming. McPhee skillfully weaves together the personal history of Rocky Mountain geologist David Love and his family with the geological history of the region, chronicling both the story of pioneering homesteaders and that of ancient seas, volcanoes, and episodes of mountain building. He also details the search for resources and the environmental effect of their discovery, as well as the inner workings of geology. Recommended, especially for public libraries. Joseph Hannibal, Cleveland Museum of Natural History
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374520656
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 11/28/1987
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 490,612
  • Product dimensions: 6.07 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

John McPhee was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and was educated at Princeton University and Cambridge University. His writing career began at Time magazine and led to his long association with The New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1965. Also in 1965, he published his first book, A Sense of Where You Are, with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and in the years since, he has written nearly 30 books, including Oranges (1967), Coming into the Country (1977), The Control of Nature (1989), The Founding Fish (2002), Uncommon Carriers (2007), and Silk Parachute (2011). Encounters with the Archdruid (1972) and The Curve of Binding Energy (1974) were nominated for National Book Awards in the category of science. McPhee received the Award in Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters in 1977.  In 1999, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Annals of the Former World.  He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Biography

"John McPhee ought to be a bore," The Christian Science Monitor once observed. "With a bore's persistence he seizes a subject, shakes loose a cloud of more detail than we ever imagined we would care to hear on any subject -- yet somehow he makes the whole procedure curiously fascinating."

This is his specialty. A New Yorker writer hired in 1965 by another devil-is-in-the-details disciple, William Shawn, McPhee has taken full advantage of the magazine's commitment to long, unusual pieces and became one of the practitioners of so-called "literary journalism," joining a fraternity occupied by Tom Wolfe, Tracey Kidder, and Joan Didion. He hung on during the Tina Brown days, when the marching orders were for short and topical pieces. And the magazine's current editor, David Remnick, was once a student of McPhee's annual writing seminar at Princeton University.

The temptation is to brand McPhee a nature writer, since he spends so much of his professional life trekking through the outdoors or scribbling notes in the passenger seat of a game warden's pickup truck. But his writing isn't so easily labeled as that. Instead, he has the luxury of writing about whatever strikes his fancy, oftentimes plumbing childhood passions. In fact, his big break as a professional writer combined two of his favorite things: sports and Princeton, his home since birth. In 1965, he finally got published by The New Yorker with a profile on Princeton basketball star Bill Bradley. The piece later became his first book.

He wrote for the television program Robert Montgomery Presents in the late 1950s and was on staff at Time in the ‘50s and ‘60s, frequently pitching pieces to his dream publication,The New Yorker. That particular success eluded him until Shawn picked up the Bradley piece and then spent hours with him editing the piece the night the magazine was going to press. In a 1997 interview with Newsday, McPhee recalled that experience: "I said to him, 'This whole enterprise is going on and you're sitting here talking to me about this comma. How do you do it?' And he said, 'It takes as long as it takes.' That's the greatest answer I ever heard."

The same might be said of McPhee himself. He has written what, for many, is the definitive book on Alaska, Coming into the Country. "With this book,The New York Times said, "McPhee proves to be the most versatile journalist in America." He spent 696 pages on the geological development of North America in Annals of the Former World. He explored man's battle to tame mudslides and lava flows in The Control of Nature. He considered the birch-bark canoe in The Survival of the Bark Canoe. He caused a bit of head-scratching over the topic of his 17th book, La Place de la Concorde Suisse: the Swiss army.

The itinerary, at first blush, might not always be compelling, but in McPhee's hands, the journey is its own reward.

"Mr. McPhee is a writer's writer -- a master craftsman whom many aspirants study," The Wall Street Journal said in 1989. "For one thing, he has an engaging, distinctive voice. It is warm, understated and wry. Within a paragraph or two, he takes us into his company and makes us feel we're on an outing with an old chum. A talky old chum, to be sure, with an occasional tendency to corniness and rambling, but a cherished one nevertheless. We read his books not so much because we're thirsty for information about canoes, but because it's worth tagging along on any literary journey Mr. McPhee feels like taking."

Good To Know

The son of a doctor, McPhee credits his love of the outdoors to the 13 summers he spent at Camp Keewaydin, where his father was the camp physician.

His devotion to the perfect sentence came from a high school English teacher who assigned her students three compositions a week, an assignment that included an outline defending the composition's structure.

Bill Bradley made McPhee his daughter's godfather.

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    1. Also Known As:
      John A. McPhee
    2. Hometown:
      Princeton, New Jersey
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 8, 1931
    2. Place of Birth:
      Princeton, New Jersey
    1. Education:
      A.B., Princeton University, 1953; graduate study at Cambridge University, 1953-54
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Rising From The Plains


By John McPhee

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 1987 John McPhee
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780374520656

Rising From The Plains
This is about high-country geology and a Rocky Mountain regional geologist. I raise that semaphore here at the start so no one will feel misled by an opening passage in which a slim young woman who is not in any sense a geologist steps down from a train in Rawlins, Wyoming, in order to go north by stagecoach into country that was still very much the Old West. She arrived in the autumn of 1905, when she was twenty-three. Her hair was so blond it looked white. In Massachusetts, a few months before, she had graduated from Wellesley College and had been awarded a Phi Beta Kappa key, which now hung from a chain around her neck. Her field was classical studies. In addition to her skills in Latin and Greek, she could handle a horse expertly, but never had she made a journey into a region as remote as the one that lay before her.Meanwhile, Rawlins surprised her: Rawlins, where shootings had once been so frequent that there seemed to be--ascitizens put it--"a man for breakfast every morning"; Rawlins, halfway across a state that was spending per annum far more to kill wolves and coyotes than to support its nineteen-year-old university. She had expected a "backward" town, a "frontier" town, a street full of badmen like Big Nose George, the road agent, the plunderer of stagecoaches, who signed his hidden-treasure maps "B. N. George." Instead, this October evening, she was met at the station by a lackey with a handcart, who wheeled her luggage to the Ferris Hotel. A bellboy took over, his chest a constellation of buttons. The place was three stories high, and cozy with steam heat. The lights were electric. There were lace curtains. What does it matter, she reflected, if the pitchers lack spouts?Copyright © 1986 by John McPhee

Continues...

Excerpted from Rising From The Plains by John McPhee Copyright © 1987 by John McPhee. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 14, 2010

    This book dives deeper than just geology

    Adam Phenow
    Physical Geography
    Book Review: Rising From the Plains
    Imagine a place where there are oceans, volcanoes, mountains, and other amazing geological feats all in the same small area of the United States. Imagine tropical vegetation in the United States. Can this be possible? Now Imagine the Rocky Mountains and how beautifully high they are streaking up in to the sky. Would one believe me if I said at one point they were once buried below sediment? I know the answer to all these questions is yes; all of these geological and climatic occurrences have happened at one time or another in the north western state of Wyoming. What would one think this place is like today? We can still see today a lot of what has been left behind form these processes. "Rising From the Plains" written by John McPhee is the book I chose to read and write about for my book review. The main character in this book is famous geologist John David Love who lived and studied geologic features in western Wyoming. Now I am not necessarily a fan of geology, I find it rather boring. Maybe this was not the best book for me to pick, but it was approved on the list and I had no trouble getting my hands on it in the library. This book does explain the forces of geology pretty well even though some of it went right over my head. The concepts of geology take thousands of years to form and I like to learn about concepts that our happening now that I can physically see and grasp the change. There were parts of the book that were quite enjoyable and very easy to read. In the book John David Love tells stories about his life including: the family ranch, his wife and children, his schooling, and the happenings of the times. The most interesting part of the book that I will extrapolate more on later is Love's core value of sustainability. He could be filthy rich with all the renewable resources he has found in Wyoming such as oil and natural gas, but he chooses to keep the integrity of the land intact and not do something just to earn money. He really keeps the welfare of the renewable resources close to his heart. I am not sure if anyone would choose to do what he did today. Wyoming was once at sea level. I know this means that at one point the western states like California and Oregon were underwater and once the sea level detracted that part of the country was exposed. This makes me wonder if more land under the ocean near coast will be exposed later due to lowering sea levels. From what I understand due to global warming however is icebergs and ice sheets are melting so more land will be covered up by the water level of the sea. I know just like anything in geology this will take a long time, but it still concerns me. I wonder about the effects this could have on our coastal states and what geologic features could be lost. One can learn a lot about geology from the state of Wyoming. The geologic diversity in Wyoming is unlike any other state. Some examples of geological phenomenon in Wyoming include the Teton Mountains jumped up many feet in a few seconds in the 14th century. Another cool feature is Absaroka volcanic sediments were a local part of the vast material that had buried the Rocky Mountains. Their huge boulders indicated close proximity to the events from which the rock had poured. Plenty of limestone can be found in Wyoming which is partial proof that Wyoming was covered by ocean at one point because limestone is ordinarily made up of corals, sh

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