John McPhee, Author, Carol Rigolot, Editor . ARRAY(0x24a3288) $39.50 (; cloth $39.50 ) ISBN 978-0-691-08680-4

In his preface to this eclectic collection of more than four dozen pieces of literary journalism, McPhee concedes that it lacks a unifying theme other than the simple fact that the various authors have all taught at Princeton. Further, he allowed the contributors to select from their own work the piece to be included. As a result, the end product is a volume meant for browsing rather than reading—not necessarily a bad thing. Far from it, with contributors as distinguished as Victor Navasky, Geoffrey Wolff, Harrison Salisbury and Francine du Plessix Gray, not to mention McPhee himself, virtually all of the pieces included have their virtues. But are they all—many of them pieces of time-bound journalism—worth rereading? For instance, Gina Kolata includes a brief New York Times report on the cloning of the sheep Dolly—without considering the long-range implications of the feat. Fortunately, most of the pieces withstand the passage of time better. Haynes Johnson's description of what happened to certain of the American pawns in the wake of the Bay of Pigs invasion remains as compelling today as when it appeared more than 30 years ago. Likewise, Harrison Salisbury's reporting on the Nazi siege of Leningrad is of continuing interest, as are Blair Clark's recollections of the poet Robert Lowell. Other pieces, like Francine du Plessix Gray's description of the second Nixon inauguration, continue to hold our interest because they evoke a certain nostalgia for passions long since forgotten. Despite the good writing, though, the primary audience for this volume will be students of nonfiction, those reading for style rather than content. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 07/23/2001
Release date: 00/00/0000
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 392 pages - 978-0-691-08681-1
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