Doc Searls writes about the recent death of John Updike and, in the process, reminds us of John McPhee. My tastes in fiction (mostly historical fiction) never included much of Updike’s work – but it’s on my list to get back to as time permits. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of great fiction by skipping Updike.
John McPhee‘s work, on the other hand, has always been at the top of my list. I think the first book of his that I read years ago – which scared the bejezus out of me at the time – was The Curve of Binding Energy: A Journey into the Awesome and Alarming World of Theodore B. Taylor. I followed that with Oranges, a book about a striking different subject but written with McPhee’s same craftsman-like writing style. From there, I’ve read many more of McPhee’s books and essays.
In fact, I first subscribed to the New Yorker out of a desire to read McPhee’s work as soon as it was available. I remember how delighted I’d be when a new weekly issue would arrive – maybe once or twice a year – with a new McPhee piece.