I’ve admired John McPhee’s writing for a long time and hadn’t read anything for quite a while, so I picked up Table of Contents at a charity book sale and went at it. What a good choice. Master of the aphoristic sentence ([The doctor] delivered [the patient, a woodcutter] some preventive medicine, cut, split, and stacked.), McPhee describes so many people, places, and careers in such clear language that you think you’ve been there and met them.
I had read a couple of the articles years ago, but their vividness hasn’t faded, and the fresh writing is as fresh as the day he wrote it, much of it in the 1980’s. From the perils and pleasures of becoming a family medicine doctor in Maine to bringing phone communication to the Yukon to the wondrous world of bush-piloting in the Maine wilds, McPhee’s world is as wide and varied as the planet and human enterprise. An added dimension appears in North of the C.P. Line in which he follows a piper cub pilot who shares his name and who wrote a letter to him complaining that people were thinking that he (the pilot) wrote some article or another and it was causing him trouble.