[E–pub READ] Silk Parachute

Silk ParachuteMy first complete McPhee and this FUN NARRATIVE NON FICTION SLOWLY Narrative non fiction almost wondrously crafted You can feel it the rhythm of the words sometimes A couple of pieces in Silk Parachute are suibs but the two long pieces on Lacrosse and Golf than make up for them Anyway there s a lot of him to read and this one may be a good start John McPhee is a wonderful writer In this collection of ssays he takes us on tours of the chalky Cretaceous deposits that underly the English Channel and spans Southern England and Northern France the history and merging popularity of lacrosse the painstaking process of capturing images with a Deardorff camera and the thorough nature of the New Yorker fact checking team to name a few The uniting factor in these ssays is McPhee s plain and Loyal to His Lies elegant prose He has a marvelous way of leading the reader patiently down into the weeds of whatever topic he has chosen and once he is down there teaching you something I didn t give this collection a high rating because unlike Coming Into the Country it had no thematic through line Silk Parachute is a collection of randomssays from the New Yorker and they are The Favorite Daughter each insularly delightful but do not really make an impression as a whole unless you are student of McPhee s style But for this alone I would recommend the book McPhee is a good reminder that you don t have to do anything fancy to write with poise and beauty I just love McPhee I found myself reading a longssay on lacrosse with deep almost Fitness for Geeks emotional interest And lacrosse has never appealed to me before That s what great writing can doBut my favorite pieces are two short memoir typessays one on canoeing and one the title ssayI fervently hope Mr McPhee never dies Not as good as the best McPhee but still better than most writing fiction or non fiction Checkpoints about New Yorker magazine fact checkers made me laugh out loud Read it Given the way things are these days ven a single laugh should be pursued for all it s worth My Life List about unusual things he has aten while doing the journalism thing was also amusingMcPhee is a loving grandfather now I m the sort of big grump who d rather read about the Swiss Army oranges or nuclear physics than a description of someone s adorable moppet of a grandchild so these moments had limited interest to me But I thought the one about his daughter who for some reason lugs around a really old school camera the type you peer through under a black drape was pretty interesting Worth getting out of the library and picking up from time to time A friend mentioned this book back in March saying she d read a review of it that made her think she d like it and wondering if I d heard of McPhee Since he writes for the New Yorker and I m one of those New Yorker subscribers who reads very single article ven if it doesn t immediately seem to be about something I m interested in I figured I must have read his work but still couldn t place his name Then I looked in the New Yorker s digital archive and realized he d written a 2007 piece called Season on the Chalk about the chalk landscapes of Europe including bits about geology and wine making and WWII history which I d ntirely forgotten about until I saw it there But once I heard the title I remembered liking it so much I tore the whole thing out of the magazine and kept it for a while because it was just so good Here s the start of that Naked Choke essay which is included in this bookThe massive chalk of Europe lies below the English Channel under much of northern France under bits of Germany and Scandinavia under the Limburg Province of the Netherlands and from Erith Reach to Gravesend under fifteen miles of the lower Thames My grandson Tommaso appears out of somewhere and picks up a cobble from the bottom of the Thames The tide is out The flats are broad between the bank and the water Small boats canted are at rest on the riverbed Others farther out on the wide river are moored afloat skiffs sloops a yawl or two Tommaso is ten The rock in his hand is large but light He breaks it against the revetment bordering the Gordon Promenade in the Riverside Leisure Area with benches and lawns under oaks and chestnuts prams and children picnics under way newspapers spread like sails and far up the bank a stall selling ice cream He cracks the cobble into jagged pieces which are whiter than snow Chalked graffiti line the revetment and have attracted the attention of Tommaso who now starts his own with the letter R p 9I love that so much the pace of it the way it sets the scene I love this wholessay for the way it s about landscapeplace the way it mingles broad historical fact with personal Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good experience I love how wonderfully precise McPhee can be with sentences like this An armada of swans in si. A WONDROUS NEW BOOK OF MCPHEE'S PROSE PIECES IN MANY ASPECTS HIS MOST PERSONAL IN FOUR DECADES The brief brilliantssay Silk Parachute which first appeared in The New Yorker a decade ago has become John McPhee's most anthologized piece of writing In the nine other pieces here highly varied in length and theme McPhee ranges with his characteristic humor and intensity through lacrosse long xposure view came.

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Ngle file swims out from near the shore and toward #The Center Of The River #center of the river ight swans p 10 And while others of McPhee s ssays don t xcite me uite as much I still admire the way he writes the care and pleasure it seems he takes in it whether he s writing about his mother or canoeing or Seductive Surrender eating unusual meats puffin weasel bear or lacrosseYes I sometimes wished that particularssay which is 58 pages would hurry up and be done already but that s a comment on my tastes than on McPhee s writing And when I did finish the Seductive Surrender (Highland Heather Romancing a Scot, essay on lacrosse moving on to anssay about antiue view camerashis daughter s photographic collaborations with Virginia Beahan really pleasing landscapes like this and this I forgot my boredom and "Was Delighted All Over Again By The McPhee S Particular "delighted all over again by the McPhee s particular of description and detail and humor Also really pleasing an ssay about unusual foods an ssay about fact checking that s in large part a paean to fact checkers Two delightful long ssays and 8 short ones that simply tantalize Season on the Chalk compresses history and geology of chalk in England and continental Europe in a fine thread with surprising people and vents from the Romans who build much with chalk to modern champaign arbors which depend on chalk holding water Spin Right and Shoot Left is a fun ride on the history of lacrosse Like a good chef McPhee makes a reliably good dish out of available ingredients at hand making a lie out of any initial perspective that you know nothing about and care little about lacrosse Started by the Iriuois Nations in the 19th century how was it that it was adopted first by Ivy League and prep schools then moved to hotbeds Balti Long Island and Colorado then grew xponentially Between 2007 and 2009 600 new public high schools adopted the sport Read and learn about how it has affinity with basketball than any other sport When I was a magazine ditor I always held up McPhee as a model for my writers Find a subject that hasn t been overdone I would say then research the hell out of it and write about it beautifully Easier said than done of course McPhee is the master of the gee whiz article the one that tells you all sorts of stuff that you didn t know you didn t know or that you are fascinated to find out about Granted The Deepest Sin even I didn t want to know as much about the Swiss army as McPhee decided to tell his New Yorker readers And maybe McPhee got too fascinated by geology leaving some of us wishing for stuff like Oranges or The Pine Barrens And maybe Tracy Kidder has lately been leaving McPhee in the dust But I don t know anyone who writes better prose fiction or non fiction The prose is still good in this volume but it s on the whole disappointing What strikes me mostspecially about the longer pieces in the book is the lack of structure in McPhee s ssays In Season on the Chalk he hops about from place to place in England and France with only the loosest of transitions he lards Spin Right and Shoot Left with lists and catalogs such as the roster of fifty three colleges that sent coaches to an xhibition of potential varsity lacrosse players his piece on the US Open golf tournament Rip Van Golfer is distractingly scattered among observations of place observations of players and observations of himself as observer It doesn t help that I have little interest in ither lacrosse or golf but McPhee used to be able to hold my interest in ven things that I wouldn t be inclined to read about Still no magazine writer that I know of finds curious and illuminating things to say about whatever he writes about I just wish for an ditor that would prune his xcesses The amazing thing about John McPhee is that he can hold one s attention ven when the subject matter is not otherwise interesting The longest ssays in Silk Parachute are about lacrosse and golf neither of which sports is to my taste Yet the great mass of details he presents somehow make the reader wonder what s next That is no mean talentTo date I have read a dozen of McPhee s books and I m not finished yet This is the cool stuff that they don t teach in school Rattlesnakes for all their volutionary perfection are not the brightest creatures If a line of people walks past a rattlesnake it aims at the first person strikes at the second and hits the third In the way that a placer miner can look at a nugget and say what stream it came from a lacrosse coach can watch an unknown player for a while and write down his home address The performance nhancing food for Olympic marathoners and such is Vespa mandarinia japonica actually synthetic hornet juice but what our author calls bee spit The Japanese giant hornet flies about a hundred kilometers a day ingesting but not digesting small insects which it carries home in globular form to. Ra photography the weird foods he has sometimes been served in the course of his reportorial travels a US Open golf championship and a season in Europe on the chalk from the downs and sea cliffs of England to the Maas valley in the Netherlands and the champagne country of northern France Some of the pieces are wholly personal In luminous recollections of his arly years for xample he goes on outings with ,