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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Personal Glimpses of McPhee
John McPhee, in my opinion, has for some 25 years been America's greatest non-fiction writer. Whether it has been his epic, four volume series of geology, or esoterica like The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed, or his best work, Coming into the Country, McPhee writes on an extraordinary range of subjects by finding and writing about the amazing people he has encountered, who give us...
Published on July 25, 2010 by James D. DeWitt

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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle rip-off?
This is the first sentence in the Amazon review of the Kindle edition of John McPhee's "Silk Parachute:" "The brief, brilliant essay "Silk Parachute," which first appeared in The New Yorker a decade ago, has become John McPhee's most anthologized piece of writing. In the nine other pieces here--highly varied in length and theme--McPhee ranges with his characteristic humor...
Published 24 months ago by chemin17


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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Personal Glimpses of McPhee, July 25, 2010
By 
James D. DeWitt "Alaska Fan" (Fairbanks, AK United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Silk Parachute (Hardcover)
John McPhee, in my opinion, has for some 25 years been America's greatest non-fiction writer. Whether it has been his epic, four volume series of geology, or esoterica like The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed, or his best work, Coming into the Country, McPhee writes on an extraordinary range of subjects by finding and writing about the amazing people he has encountered, who give us insights into the subjects McPhee has selected.

But not this time. This time the personality is John McPhee, writing about things that have happened to him. Whether it is the delightful title essay, "Silk Parachute," which is worth the price of the book itself, or his lyrical exploration of The Chalk, from England and through France, for the most part these are stories about McPhee, or jokes McPhee tells on himself. And, just occasionally, a glimpse of a truly extraordinary writer, doing what he does best.

I own every published book from McPhee. I have read and re-read them all. This small collection ranks in the top 10%. Highly recommended.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars McPhee as ever, sort of, April 17, 2010
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T. Flory (BELLINGHAM, WA, US) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Silk Parachute (Hardcover)
In what may be Mr. McPhee's final book, we are treated to some insights that reveal the origins of some of his other writing. Thoughtful and well written as always, but likely most appreciated by those familiar with his work. While so many marvel at his ability to make otherwise mundane topics interesting, the quality of his writing and the simple ease of reading it never fail in any way. While it would be unfortunate for his readers, if this is his last, it is greatly appreciated.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect, but lovely, August 12, 2011
This review is from: Silk Parachute (Paperback)
This collection is notable primarily for the way McPhee takes us behind the curtain and reveals more of himself and his process than we usually get to see.

It's a little uneven, quite frankly; his extensive treatise on the game of lacrosse goes on way too long for my taste. McPhee has a knack for finding interesting story points in tiny details; in this particular piece, we find an astonishing ability to cite statistics but only a handful of those stats really move the story along.

But there are also real gems - including the two short essays that open and close the book ("Silk Parachute" and "Nowheres," respectively). They're among the most lyrical and economical pieces of McPhee that I've read.

"Under the Cloth" gives us a look at an unusual collaboration between two large-format photographers, one of whom happens to be McPhee's daughter. It's a knockout, both for the way this working relationship is described, and as a glimpse into McPhee's own life. "Rip Van Golfer" presents us with McPhee as a stranger in a strange land: as a non-sports journalist covering the US Open golf tournament. It's highly entertaining. And we get some fascinating understanding of the editorial machine that is The New Yorker.

I feel I know way more about my favorite living writer than he has ever shown before. And something else that's a treat: McPhee's writing has long been witty, but some of these essays contain stuff that's laugh-out-loud funny. This book is probably a better choice for a confirmed McPhee fan than for someone just discovering him, but I'm really glad this one is in my library. I WILL read it again.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something Different from the Master, March 24, 2010
This review is from: Silk Parachute (Hardcover)
In many ways this collection of essays is a complete aberration for John McPhee. In many ways it's not at all. There are several essays that fit the typical McPhee template, ie a copiously studied exposition on a seemingly arcane subject presented in a structurally unique and engaging way. The two essays that jump out of this collection are on the chalk region of northern Europe (England, France, and the Netherlands) and another on Lacrosse. Both of these are flat-out superb, welcome territory for those of us who know and relish McPhee's oeuvre. At the far end of the spectrum are the one and two page personal essays, which may be unfamiliar to those who do not assiduously read the New Yorker. No longer being an assiduos reader of the New Yorker, I found them quite pleasurable to read on first encounter, in part for what they revealed about their author. Lastly there are what I would call hybrid essays - a bit longer than the personal essays, somewhat shorter than the first two I mentioned. Interestingly, these essays draw heavily on from McPhee's earlier writings, including Coming Into the Country and the Headmaster, and are valuable in their examination of McPhee's writing process.

Overall, I always recommend McPhee's writing simply because it is so damn good. There is plenty damn good writing on display here: copiously researched material, crafted with a master artisan's skill with particular attention to clarity without the dilution of detail. That being said, there are plenty of McPhee books that are better; this collection would not do justice to someone first encountering his work; but for those already converted, go out and enjoy this collection.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle rip-off?, January 1, 2013
By 
chemin17 (Cambridge, MA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Silk Parachute (Kindle Edition)
This is the first sentence in the Amazon review of the Kindle edition of John McPhee's "Silk Parachute:" "The brief, brilliant essay "Silk Parachute," which first appeared in The New Yorker a decade ago, has become John McPhee's most anthologized piece of writing. In the nine other pieces here--highly varied in length and theme--McPhee ranges with his characteristic humor and intensity through lacrosse, long-exposure view-camera photography, the weird foods he has sometimes been served in the course of his reportorial travels, a U.S. Open golf championship, and a season in Europe "on the chalk" from the downs and sea cliffs of England to the Maas valley in the Netherlands and the champagne country of northern France...."

To recap: We are led to believe that there are TEN ESSAYS in this book. The title one is "Silk Parachute."
BUT, hmmmmmm..... The Kindle edition only contains NINE ESSAYS.

And it is the title essay itself, "Silk Parachute" that is MISSING from the Kindle edition. Where did it go? Why was it omitted? Why is the poor Kindle reader being defrauded? Why aren't we informed that the title essay is missing?

Just askin'

Holbrook Robinson
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good group of short pieces on many topics, April 27, 2014
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This review is from: Silk Parachute (Kindle Edition)
Huge fan of McPhee so predisposed to like this. Especially enjoyed the title essay, "Silk Parachute," a memoir of McPhee's mother and his childhood that was at once both evocative, amusing and touching. Also got a kick out of "My Life List," a rumination on strange things that he's eaten. As a former editorial assistent and fact checker I loved "Checkpoints" which deals with fact checkers McPhee has worked with and his own attempt at fact checking himself, great stuff, I laughed out loud! Not a golfer so found "Rip van Golfer" a bit of a snooze. Remaining pieces were all enjoyed but it's been a month since I read this and they were less memorable. Recommended for all who enjoy McPhee who don't subscribe to the New Yorker where many, but not all, of these pieces were first published.
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5.0 out of 5 stars His best!, February 2, 2014
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This review is from: Silk Parachute (Paperback)
The best McPhee yet. Some of his work is now assuming the role of a retrospective, which creates a sort of poignancy that adds flavor all its own. He has gotten even more meticulous, but now you expect his dottering over small details that would likely never be chased down even if they were wrong--and they make you smile, because there is so much careless trash out there. He has taken the talent of approaching a topic from its blind side to new levels. There will never be anyone better at creating a piece that you know you can trust, but enjoy at the same time. I read "The Monument's Men" right before this one. I discovered that McPhee brought out an interesting fact in one paragraph that had been completely overwritten and muddied in the 800 page MM book, which was well researched but poorly written. McPhee has a way of going for the heart of the matter, but from an unexpected approach. I hope he lives forever, and has a sharp mind when he's a hundred.
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5.0 out of 5 stars McPhee is a national treasure!, September 20, 2013
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This review is from: Silk Parachute (Paperback)
Some of the best non-fiction writing in America! If you haven't read McPhee, you don't know what you're missing. He can make anything interesting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars As always, August 5, 2013
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This review is from: Silk Parachute (Kindle Edition)
McPhee makes one look at life with renewed enthusiasm; and stimulates renewed eagerness to explore the intriguing world one lives in.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Essays, June 8, 2013
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This review is from: Silk Parachute (Paperback)
We like John McPhee's other books and enjoyed this series of essays very much. The title essay was especially touching as it's about his mother and his memories of her.
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Silk Parachute
Silk Parachute by John McPhee (Paperback - March 1, 2011)
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