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Table of Contents Paperback – October 1, 1986


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Eight essays of varying length, all reprinted from the New Yorker , make up this collection of vintage McPhee. Most of the pieces deal with people who have taken the less traveled path, such as Pat McConnell, who is in charge of all New Jersey's fur-bearing mammals, including bears (yes, there are bears in New Jersey); Richard Hutchinson, who runs a truly tinkertoy power company in Circle City, Alaska; and Dr. David Jones, who practices family medicine in the far reaches of Aroostook County, Maine. Rather incongruously, there is also a profile of Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey, the only celebrity included. Although not a first purchase item for libraries, Table of Contents is a civilized book in the best sense of that word. Kenneth F. Kister, Tampa, Fla.
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“Here is McPhee at his most ingenuous and winning, a writer for all seasons.”—George Core, The Sewanee Review

"Mr. McPhee is in top form, and his voice, fairly constant from piece to piece, provides sufficient unity."—Noel Perrin, The New York Times Book Review

"Eight essays of varying length, all reprinted from The New Yorker, make up this collection of vintage McPhee. Most of the pieces deal with people who have taken the less traveled path, such as Pat McConnell, who is in charge of all New Jersey's fur-bearing mammals, including bears (yes, there are bears in New Jersey); Richard Hutchinson, who runs a truly tinkertoy power company in Circle City, Alaska; and Dr. David Jones, who practices family medicine in the far reaches of Aroostook County, Maine. Rather incongruously, there is also a profile of Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey, the only celebrity included . . . Table of Contents is a civilized book in the best sense of that word."—Kenneth F. Kister, Library Journal

"These pieces demonstrate once again the many reasons for reading McPhee. He has a talent for unearthing arcane subject matter. He is an extraordinary stylist. His work is the standard by which most literary nonfiction is judged these days."—James Kaufmann,The Christian Science Monitor (Eastern edition)

"[This work] reflects McPhee's continuing interest in the natural aspect of this world, and he writes about natural things almost for love's sake alone and not in the disgruntled mode of some latter-day Thoreau. The opening essay, 'Under the Snow,' illustrates McPhee's beautifully controlled state of mind and temperament. It also exhibits his characteristic talent for getting unusual stories out of seemingly common materials—in this case, the revelation of the many black bears' dens in Pennsylvania. A precise and lovely prose describes a state biologist reaching into a den whose sow has been calmed by the hypodermic jab stick: 'From deeps of shining fur, he fished out cubs.' This is a is disarming kind of simplicity."—Thomas P. McDonnell, National Review
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (October 1, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374520089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374520083
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #666,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John McPhee was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and was educated at Princeton University and Cambridge University. His writing career began at Time magazine and led to his long association with The New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1965. The same year he published his first book, A Sense of Where You Are, with FSG, and soon followed with The Headmaster (1966), Oranges (1967), The Pine Barrens (1968), A Roomful of Hovings and Other Profiles (collection, 1969), The Crofter and the Laird (1969), Levels of the Game (1970), Encounters with the Archdruid (1972), The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed (1973), The Curve of Binding Energy (1974), Pieces of the Frame (collection, 1975), and The Survival of the Bark Canoe (1975). Both Encounters with the Archdruid and The Curve of Binding Energy were nominated for National Book Awards in the category of science.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on April 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
In an earlier time, I was part of a team of science writers. TGIF meant participating in a vilification ritual. We would gather around of volume of John McPhee, cursing his name and maligning his person. The reason for this anomalous behaviour was, of course, envy. He could write. He could write science better, with lucidity and deceptive ease, than anyone else in the business. We all aspired to emulate him, with momentous lack of success. Of course, we read every word he published as quickly as it became available.
This collection of essays is a typical example of McPhee's incomparable ability to convey nature and people to our view. In it, he covers topics as disparate as micro electrical generation companies, telephone installations in Alaska and his own namesake among the game warden staff in Maine. It is this last story that has captured my admiration of his talents beyond nearly all others. In it, he shows personal courage that war correspondents might envy. Prompted to visit Maine to meet a duplicate John McPhee, ward and warden of the state's wildlife, the McPhee duality flies to count moose. A harsh wind bends the trees below
as the journalist idly wonders at the wind's speed. "Tell me when the trees stop moving." The float plane slows until it hovers aloft indicating a wind speed of 45 miles per hour.
Such expeditions are common for the man who has traversed the continent seeking the secrets of the rocks. Closer to home in Princeton, he follows another game warden also counting - this time bears. Even a drugged bear seems a menace, but McPhee is quick to point out that Eastern bears are peaceful collaborators with people. Eastern Black Bears may even have changed their life habits to accommodate human contact.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Tauber on April 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
John McPhee's "Table of Contents" is a great introduction to an author that deserves to be much more widely read. Science has the potential to be highly readable and enjoyable and McPhee capitalizes on this greatly. In subjects ranging from an impromptu chat with Bill Bradley, to bears living in New Jersey, to the time honored tradition of general practitioners, McPhee has the ability to draw out great things in people and relay these stories brilliantly. Not unlike Studs Terkel. This is a great book to start with. McPhee has written many others too, many of which are equally enjoyable.
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Format: Paperback
TABLE OF CONTENTS sounds like a work-in-progress title that ended up too accurate to discard. Here is one man's net cast wide, and John McPhee brings his peculiarly illuminative style to bear on bears and dams, family practice and a basketball player shooting for re-election to the Senate. Using succinct particulars to demonstrate the general, the author lives with his subjects and breathes their life into his writing. If you appreciated his style in ENCOUNTERS WITH THE ARCHDRUID (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977), BASIN AND RANGE (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1982), COMING INTO THE COUNTRY (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1991) or THE CURVE OF BINDING ENERGY (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994), to mention just a few of his dozens of books, you know what to expect. Essay is my favorite form of literature and McPhee is a master.
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