As regular readers know, John McPhee remains one of my favorite authors. He combines the best of subject matter and exploration of how he structures his work.
The descriptions in The Pine Barrens rival the best fiction while leading the reader on an edifying journey with the indomitable Fred Brown at the center of the constellation of friends and relatives. “A Roomful of Hovings” interlaces the story of the man who ran the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a stroll through the places where he lived and worked.
Now Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process combines earlier work with some excellent additions. The explanation for how he constructed Encounters with the Archdruid bears re-reading, if only to enjoy seeing the archdruid (the high priest of the Sierra Club) announce, “I’m chicken.”
The new material appears immediately, and it is worth the price of the book to read of McPhee’s experience working in an office next door to a massage parlor.
As solace to any writer struggling just the title Draft No. 4 offers hope. If the great Mr. McPhee has to go (at least) that long, why should the rest of us complain?