Friday, April 8, 2011

An Analysis of John McPhee's The Pine Barrens (Part 3 of 4)

[Note: I recently took an environmental literature class. As part of the coursework, I had to read two books that have influenced the American environmental movement and prepare a report on each. One of the books that I chose was John McPhee's The Pine Barrens.]

Who is John McPhee? A Hard-Working Journalist and Teacher

John McPhee was born in Princeton, New Jersey in 1931. Following his education at Princeton and Cambridge Universities, he started to write magazine articles, first with Time magazine and later with The New Yorker. He’s been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1965. McPhee has also worked extensively as a nonfiction writing instructor. As recently as 2009, McPhee was still teaching at Princeton University.

The Pine Barrens, published in 1968, was one of McPhee’s earlier books. Personally, I thought he rambled in places and could have used more editing. While my husband assures me that this is simply McPhee’s style, I am interested in reading McPhee’s later works to see if he tightened up his writing over the years.

Part of Itinerant Cryptographer's John McPhee collection

To date, John McPhee has published 30 books on wide-ranging topics that tend to examine the intersection of humans, history, and ecology. John McPhee won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for his essays on geology which he threaded into a book called Annals of the Former World.

McPhee’s tremendous output of work coupled with an ability to take complex ideas and break them down into enjoyable prose are surely his greatest gifts as a writer. He has been called the most gifted non-fiction writer working today and he is certainly one of the hardest working. At the age of 80, he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.


If you like this post, be sure to read:

Part 1: Background: What are the Pine Barrens?
Part 2: What Makes the Pine Barrens So Special?
Part 4: What Type of Writer is McPhee? Why Was His Book Effective?

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