Uncommon Carriers

John McPhee, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $24 (248p) ISBN 978-0-374-28039-0

McPhee's 28th book (after The Founding Fish ) is a grown-up version of every young boy's fantasy life, as the peripatetic writer gets to ride in the passenger seat in an 18-wheel truck, tag along on a barge ride up the Illinois River and climb into the cabin of a Union Pacific coal train that's over a mile long. He even gets to be the one-man crew on a 20-ton scale model of an ocean tanker in a French pond where ship pilots go for advanced training. As always, McPhee's eye for idiosyncratic detail keeps the stories (some of which have appeared in the New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly ) lively and frequently moves them in interesting directions. One chapter that starts out in a Nova Scotia lobster farm winds up in Louisville, Ky., where McPhee is quickly beguiled by the enormous UPS sorting facility. In a more intimate piece, he takes a canoe and retraces Thoreau's path along New England rivers, noting the modern urban sprawl as well as the wildlife. "There are two places in the world—home and everywhere else," the towboat captain tells McPhee, "and everywhere else is the same." But McPhee always uncovers the little differences that give every place its unique tale. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/17/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-4299-8897-1
Hardcover - 377 pages - 978-0-7862-9092-5
Paperback - 248 pages - 978-0-86547-739-1
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4498-9711-6
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