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This en­joy­able ac­count has been re­pub­lished for its 50th an­niver­sary, where McPhee de­scribes the Pine Bar­rens’ history, to­pog­ra­phy and botany, myths and cus­toms, and its peo­ple and prospects. It’s un­likely many of us will have the op­por­tu­nity to visit such a place, so this book should al­low the next best thing. About a third of the way in I twigged that the Pine Bar­rens fea­tured in one of the fa­mous episodes of The So­pra­nos. Aside from that the place had never flick­ered across my imag­i­na­tion. McPhee I knew from the New Yorker as one of the finest crafts­men of cre­ative non­fic­tion, and with last year’s Draft No 4, his en­joy­able writ­ing man­i­festo-of-sorts. He has also writ­ten an en­tire book about or­anges, and once lay on an out­door ta­ble for two weeks to sum up the cre­ative will to be­gin a new project. There­fore you can ex­pect dense thick­ets of de­tail and struc­ture (al­ways struc­ture), and he gives it to you straight – to an ex­tent some read­ers might find dull – in a style that must be an ed­i­tor’s dream, nev­er­the­less.


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