The Princeton Anthology of Writing: Favorite Pieces by the Ferris/McGraw Writers at Princeton University

Overview

"This book is a delight for the general reader as well as an excellent resource for undergraduate or graduate students of journalism. It represents many of the finest nonfiction writers of the past several decades. There are many treasures here—and some real surprises. This is compelling stuff, wide ranging and beautifully balanced." (Evan Cornog, School of Journalism, Columbia University)"The range, care, and thoughtfulness with which this volume has been edited is hugely impressive. It is an extraordinary work whose greatest strength lies in ...
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Overview

"This book is a delight for the general reader as well as an excellent resource for undergraduate or graduate students of journalism. It represents many of the finest nonfiction writers of the past several decades. There are many treasures here—and some real surprises. This is compelling stuff, wide ranging and beautifully balanced." (Evan Cornog, School of Journalism, Columbia University)"The range, care, and thoughtfulness with which this volume has been edited is hugely impressive. It is an extraordinary work whose greatest strength lies in the selections themselves. It will be exceptionally useful as a supplemental text for undergraduate instruction and is very likely to find a receptive audience among the public as well." (David Abrahamson, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University)
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his preface to this eclectic collection of more than four dozen pieces of literary journalism, McPhee concedes that it lacks a unifying theme other than the simple fact that the various authors have all taught at Princeton. Further, he allowed the contributors to select from their own work the piece to be included. As a result, the end product is a volume meant for browsing rather than reading not necessarily a bad thing. Far from it, with contributors as distinguished as Victor Navasky, Geoffrey Wolff, Harrison Salisbury and Francine du Plessix Gray, not to mention McPhee himself, virtually all of the pieces included have their virtues. But are they all many of them pieces of time-bound journalism worth rereading? For instance, Gina Kolata includes a brief New York Times report on the cloning of the sheep Dolly without considering the long-range implications of the feat. Fortunately, most of the pieces withstand the passage of time better. Haynes Johnson's description of what happened to certain of the American pawns in the wake of the Bay of Pigs invasion remains as compelling today as when it appeared more than 30 years ago. Likewise, Harrison Salisbury's reporting on the Nazi siege of Leningrad is of continuing interest, as are Blair Clark's recollections of the poet Robert Lowell. Other pieces, like Francine du Plessix Gray's description of the second Nixon inauguration, continue to hold our interest because they evoke a certain nostalgia for passions long since forgotten. Despite the good writing, though, the primary audience for this volume will be students of nonfiction, those reading for style rather than content. (Aug.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher

"[An] eclectic collection of more than four dozen pieces of literary journalism . . . the end product is a volume meant for browsing rather than reading--not necessarily a bad thing. Far from it, with contributors as distinguished as Victor Navasky, Geoffrey Wolff, Harrison Salisbury, and Francine du Plessix Gray, not to mention McPhee himself."--Publisher's Weekly

"This is a significant collection of first-rate factual writing, and a valuable contribution to the literary scene."--The Virginia Quarterly

The Virginia Quarterly
This is a significant collection of first-rate factual writing, and a valuable contribution to the literary scene.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691086804
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/16/2001
  • Pages: 376
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

John McPhee
John McPhee -- a writer with The New Yorker since 1965 -- writes about most anything that piques his interest, from California geology to the arc of a tennis ball to the construction of a birch-bark canoe. “His beautifully articulated structures, clear prose, and participatory voice have become a model for other literary journalists,” Norman Sims wrote in the Dictionary of Literary Biography.

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:

Table of Contents

Preface
Beauty for Ashes 3
A View of Mountains 9
The Boat 11
Josephine Guezou 18
Twentieth-Century Odyssey 22
A Farewell to Hue 29
Looking for Trouble 36
The Forthright Estate: In Praise of the Newspaper Column 41
Code of Ethics 46
Father of His Country 51
Workplace Discrimination 59
Harassment by Kids: Are More Lawsuits the Answer? 62
Driver's Education 66
People and Character 72
Saving the Nation 75
Faith, Sex, Mystery 87
My Own Vox Pop 94
Stardom? They'd Rather Pass 95
Space Invaders 97
The Country Is at Crisis Point 99
Memo to Conservatives: Family Ties Are the Strongest Values of All 104
All Sentient Beings 107
When Worlds Collide 114
First Born, Fast Grown: The Manful Life of Nicholas, 10 117
Massacre at Columbine High School 123
Gender in the Classroom 126
Cop-Out on Class: Why Private School Are Today's Draft Deferments 131
It's a Wonderful Legacy 133
The Era of Bad Feeling 134
Two of a Kind 137
Truly a Nation ... 139
A Little Homer at the Beach 140
Why I Can't Write Fiction 143
On Robert Lowell 147
The Miss Dennis School of Writing 151
Meeting Mahfouz 156
Critic's Notebook 163
L'Atalante 166
Annie of Corsica 170
Two Deaths - One Then, One Now: On Losing a Father, a Newspaperman 176
Heavy Lifting 179
Lenin Peak 193
From So Simple a Beginning 198
Pioneer 10 Pushes Beyond Goals, Into the Unknown 204
Get Set to Say Hi to the Neighbors 207
Left the Light On, But Nobody Came 209
The Invisible Flying Cat 210
At Least the Monsters Survive 212
Beauty, as Scientists Behold It 213
Manual Labor 216
Maintenance Not Included 218
At Last, Shout of "Eureka!" in Age-Old Math Mystery 221
Scientist Reports First Cloning Ever of Adult Mammal 223
What If We Succeed? 225
Deus Conservat Omnia 234
Introduction to Morgan, American Financier 242
Down Twenty-Three Steps 249
The Forest Coup 252
Pictures from the Rubble Patch 259
A Corner of Russia 264
Goodbye to Rafah 268
Mock Democracy 272
The Big Barbecue 281
The Rope Line 289
Nixonland 298
Consultants: The Men Who Came to Dinner 306
Class Act 316
The New American Heartland 321
The 1950s 325
Jazz: Music Beyond Time and Nations 330
Miracle Kid 335
Travels of the Rock 351
Acknowledgments 369
Author Index 373
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