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Irons in the Fire

by John McPhee

  • ISBN: 9780374177263
  • ISBN10: 0374177260

Irons in the Fire

by John McPhee

  • List Price: $22.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Edition: 1
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux
  • Publish date: 04/01/1997
  • ISBN: 9780374177263
  • ISBN10: 0374177260
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Description: The title piece of this collection resulted from a casual conversation in which a friend of John McPhee's told him that he had recently been in Nevada and had seen at a remote crossroads a white vehicle with whirling red-and-blue roof lights and the Nevada state seal on the door. Above the seal, where he expected to see the words State Police, he saw the words Brand Inspector. This suggested to him that cattle rustling was not just history in Nevada. He told McPhee that he had thought of him, and what a reporter might learn if he spent a few weeks in that vehicle. The conversation took place in New Jersey. Virtually the same day, the author departed for Nevada. The differing contents of this book reflect the variety in the overall span of McPhee's work - compositions that have in common only and essentially the fact that they are about real people in real places. The longest piece, called "The Gravel Page", is about forensic geology - insights from the science as they are used to help solve major crimes and puzzles on an even greater scale. The shortest piece - "Rinard at Manheim" - is an experimental story about an auction of exotic cars, in which the interviewee, Rinard, takes over the narrative while McPhee's remarks are confined to brackets. Items as unlikely as a virgin forest in central New Jersey, a blind writer-professor working at his computer, and a mountain of scrap tires (forty-four million scrap tires) in California shape the scenes and substance of other pieces. Not to mention Plymouth Rock. "Travels of the Rock", which ends the book, is about a day when the State of Massachusetts had to call in a mason to repair the nation's most hallowed lithic relic. McPhee stood in the pit with the mason in Plymouth and watched the attentive public leaning on the railings above. "Travels of the Rock" is a blend of colonial history, paleogeography, radiometric dating, societal drift, tectonic theory, schoolkids by the busload, and Mayflower descendants in leather jackets, cowboy boots, and one-way shades.
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