Suppose you fancy a peep inside the serpentine cranium of an American literary behemoth – the likes of John McPhee. Dwell no more in idle speculation, my dear reader. For the nonagenarian scribe has deigned to parcel out a scrapbook of his mind, a beguiling tableau he dubs Tabula Rasa. Quite the misnomer, one might say, for there’s nary a blank slate in sight.
Commencing his literary sortie at Time magazine, he then ran with the wolves at The New Yorker. His five-decade tenure there begat a multitude of his two score and nine books, each a narrative offspring meticulously nurtured within the confines of the weekly magazine. Now, at ninety-two, he proffers a tome of tantalizing anecdotes and hitherto untold tales, offering glimpses into his stint as a professor at Princeton. Not for him, the grumbling academe lamenting the teaching burden – he rather embraced it as an adjuvant to his art.
From anecdotal tales within his hallowed Princeton classroom to misadventures of piscatorial variety on the Delaware River, McPhee’s Tabula Rasa delivers a medley of narratives, echoing with the poignancy of Twain. An entrancing gallimaufry of stories, penned and shelved, some pitched only to be left in the labyrinth of editorial decisions.
His oeuvre is a testament to his curiosity, an insatiable intellectual hunger that saw him traverse the expansive gamut of human knowledge. And yet, for every piece etched in ink, there remain tales untold. Promises of sprawling narratives like ‘Beelining,’ teasing a cross-country escapade from Washington to Florida, leave readers salivating for a ‘Volume 2.’
Tabula Rasa is more than a mere anthology. It’s an opus chronicling the life of McPhee, the writer, the professor, the man. Each page brims with his wit, his magnanimity, his self-effacing humor. Here lies an intimate expose of a master of narrative nonfiction, showcasing his enduring passion, his journey, and the remarkable breadth of his explorations. So, saddle up, reader, for a joyride into the labyrinthine world of John McPhee.
WORDS: Martina Aimtree.