cover image The Patch

The Patch

John McPhee. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-22948-1

The latest collection from McPhee (Draft No. 4), a New Yorker staff writer, provides a bountiful cornucopia of insightful essays that display the wide range of his interests and tastes. The title essay begins as a characteristically detailed and observant account of fishing for chain pickerel in a New Hampshire lake before becoming a poignant reminiscence of communicating with his stroke-debilitated father via their shared fondness for fishing. In the other selections grouped under the heading “The Sporting Scene,” McPhee riffs on his interest in professional golf, college lacrosse, and even bear sighting at his home in New Jersey. The bulk of the book is composed of “An Album Quilt,” a patchwork miscellany of excerpts from never-before-collected, and in some cases unpublished, pieces—each of which could have become a full essay or book on its own—that hopscotches from a visit to the gold-stacked vaults of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to an aromatic traipse across the floor of a Hershey chocolate factory. 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. (Nov.)