The Patch

John McPhee was born in 1931, began contributing to the New Yorker in 1963 and is still one of its staff writers. He is also the author of 32 books, all nonfiction. In The Patch, he offers six previously published essays under the heading of "The Sporting Scene," as well as a second section he calls an "album quilt" of excerpts from uncollected longer pieces. "I didn't aim to reprint the whole of anything. Instead I was looking for blocks to add to the quilt, and not without new touches, internal deletions, or changed tenses--trying to make something, not just preserve it, and hoping the result would be engaging to read."

Fishing, football, golf, lacrosse and New Jersey bears are his subjects in the first section, all viewed from characteristically unusual angles, accented by his dry humor and exact turns of phrase. McPhee has a broad curiosity, and a love of natural beauties and fine technical details. In "The Patch," he interweaves his life in fishing--fly fishing for chain pickerel in particular--with the story of his father's death. "The Orange Trapper" tells of his obsession with picking up and interpreting lost golf balls (he does not play golf). The "album quilt" is an effective and carefully composed sampler of nearly everything that has ever interested him and includes many snippets of his celebrity profiles from the 1950s and '60s. His fans will enjoy this collection, and it is not a bad introduction to McPhee's long and stellar career. --Sara Catterall

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