John McPhee’s The Patch is just that: patches of work across a writer’s lifetime that come together to form a quilt of essays, reflections and reminiscences.
Ranging across a variety of genres and styles, subjects and moods, his patches are collected from writings that have not previously appeared in any book.
This collection is divided into Part I ‘The Sporting Scene’ and Part II ‘An Album Quilt’. It includes vignettes of his childhood hunting golf balls in the woods, the career and choices of a famous lacrosse coach, Joan Baez’s journey into a musical career, his daughter’s response to a high-school vocabulary test and his travels across the United States.
John McPhee’s singular style keeps each patch fitting comfortably with the next; each text falls seamlessly within the rhyme and rhythm of a larger work.Fit to be consumed all at once, or savoured piecemeal, The Patch gives a full taste of his impeccable power over language.
‘A bountiful cornucopia of insightful essays that display the wide range of his interests and tastes…McPhee delights in cracking open subjects, both ordinary and esoteric, and making them accessible to the layperson in works that testify to his virtuosity as one of the greatest living American essayists.’
‘No one else can take topics as diverse and seemingly dry and make of them such diverting, entertaining and educational literature.’
‘McPhee has created a style—blending detailed reporting with a novelistic sense of narrative—and a standard that have influenced a whole generation of journalists.’
‘McPhee’s sentences are born of patience and attention: he seems to possess a pair of eyes with the swivel, zoom and reach of a peregrine falcon’s, and a pair of ears with the recording ability of a dictaphone. He notices almost everything.’
‘The most versatile journalist in America.’
‘The Patch is evidence of a writer who has been given the freedom to follow his nose and has made the absolute most of this freedom…As at home with profiles of celebrities as he is with science and technology, he has a keen eye for detail and a great facility for the one-liner.’
‘Rich with detail and McPhee’s direct style and trademark sense of humour.’
‘McPhee finds surprising poetry in the material at hand…The Patch is just another chapter in an ongoing memoir of generous curiosity.’
‘You always learn a lot when you read McPhee—he has a facts-per-paragraph strike rate that would put the sharpest newshounds to shame—yet somehow, no matter how uninterested you might be in the subject under discussion, you will almost always find yourself being entertained, such is his ability to excavate amusing anecdotes and intriguing nuggets of information and stitch them seamlessly together.’
‘McPhee’s curiosity is legendary and evident throughout this volume.’
‘Whatever we label it—factual writing, the literature of fact, creative nonfiction, literary nonfiction, narrative journalism, or verfabula—there’s no denying that McPhee is a master of the mode…John McPhee, in particular, borrows Ernest Hemingway’s affinity for distilled grandeur and Robert Frost’s understanding of the power of a pure image. He finds in simplicity both sublime beauty and profound depth…Always his sentences capture some crystalline essence in their intricate, melodious designs—making connections, spinning webs, accreting meanings.’