Tuesday, 2017-03-07

Three books by John McPhee

Back in the days of yore, when what we now call “longreads” where simply New Yorker articles, giants such as John McPhee bestrode the Earth, writing detailed inimitable books about subjects like geology.

The Control of Nature is about mankind’s attempt to control vast amounts of material propelled by gravity - water, in the form of the Mississippi River; lava, i.e. most of Iceland; and the fast-rising San Gabriel mountains, which inconvenience Los Angeles properties by insisting on eroding.

In each of these cases, Man in his hubris has erected vast structures and machinery to protect material values threatened by Nature, which is essentially the theme of the book. McPhee is not optimistic on Man’s chances in the long run.

The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed is about a bunch of New Jersey dudes trying to build a new airship. The effort peters out shortly after the events covered in the book (early 1971) and now the only mention of the company involved cite this book. So it goes.

The Crofter and the Laird - McPhee spends a summer on the remote island in the Hebrides wherefrom his ancestors sprung - Colonsay. The book paints an elegiac picture of a world in decline, so I was happy to read that the island has actually increased in population according to Wikipedia.