Book review: The Patch — by John McPhee

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

This collection of previously uncollected essays showcases an artisan of creative nonfiction, John McPhee, in a two-part book — Part I focuses on the sporting life, and Part II — a reworked amalgamation of fragments from magazine articles and other publications, which may sound messy but is actually quite polished, like a gem plucked from his oeuvre. Accounts of fly-fishing, golf ball hunting, men’s lacrosse and more figure in the first part. Brief biographical sketches of notable figures and visits to notable places, passages plucked from both public and private occasions make up the second part, the Album Quilt — the blocks differ, each from all the others. McPhee intended for these blocks to be read all at once, or in fits and spurts. McPhee has added fascinating autobiographical asides, in one he describes an “aqueous solution of sodium chloride, sodium phosphate, and potassium chloride” his father, staff M.D. for the Princeton football team, would make the players drink to stay hydrated in hot, humid weather, and that, if his father had thought, like the Florida Gators coaching staff had, to add sugar and fruit flavoring, then McPhee himself would be “writing this from one of [his] seasonal villas.” Vastly enjoyable.

— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.




Notes from No Man’s Land, by Eula Biss

Beautiful Country Burn Again, by Ben Fountain

Essential Essays, by Adrienne Rich

Calypso, by David Sedaris

The End of the End of the Earth, by Jonathan Franzen

A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety, by Donald Hall

Call Them by Their True Names, by Rebecca Solnit

The Souls of Yellow Folk, by Wesley Yang

The Point of It All, by Charles Krauthammer

See What Can Be Done, by Lorrie Moore

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