John McPhee on writing

I tend to think of myself as a bland storyteller. Maybe I like to explain things more than is needed. Maybe I add a lot of filler to the meat of the story. Maybe it’s just the way I process information as it happens, and thus it’s how it comes out.

So when I find a writer who has a similar syntax and rhythm in their writing, it stands out to me.

I was reading Draft No. 4, a book I purchased on recommendation, and in the first essay I noticed the familiar tone of my own voice. Now, McPhee is a treasure-trove of first-hand accounts, and his written vocabulary far exceeds my own. But the way in which he describes occurrences resonates with me – because of its similarity.

“In the late nineteen-sixties, I was working in rented space on Nassau Street up a flight of stairs and over Nathan Krasel, Optometrist. Across the street was the main library of Princeton University. Across the hall was the Swedish Massage.”

One wonderful thing about reading Progression, this first essay in Draft No. 4, is that I didn’t find it bland at all. And I suppose that I can take comfort in that.


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