Giving good weight

by John McPhee

Hardcover, 1979




New York : Farrar-Straus-Giroux, c1979.


"You people come into the market--the Greenmarket, in the open air under the down pouring sun--and you slit the tomatoes with your fingernails. With your thumbs, you excavate the cheese. You choose your stringbeans one at a time. You pulp the nectarines and rape the sweet corn. You are something wonderful, you are--people of the city--and we, who are almost without exception strangers here, are as absorbed with you as you seem to be with the numbers on our hanging scales." So opens the title piece in this collection of John McPhee's classic essays, grouped here with four others, including "Brigade de Cuisine," a profile of an artistic and extraordinary chef; "The Keel of Lake Dickey," in which a journey down the whitewater of a wild river ends in the shadow of a huge projected dam; a report on plans for the construction of nuclear power plants that would float in the ocean; and a pinball shoot-out between two prizewinning journalists.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member jhevelin
I have been a fan of John McPhee's writing for over thirty years, but I don't know how to rate this book. The article "The Atlantic Generating Station," about a proposal to build a floating nucler power plant off the New Jersey coast in the 1970s, is flawed by a significant omission: while the article goes into significant detail about the studies of fish and wildlife and ocean currents and myriad other factors subcontracted by the nuclear industry, there are only two slight references to the subject of radioactivity, and absolutely no mention, repeat, no mention, of even the subject of issues surrounding the handling and disposal of nuclear waste. These issues were certainly widely debated before McPhee wrote his article, and given McPhee's stature as a journalist, I can only assume that the omission was deliberate and that this article was written as a puff piece for the nuclear industry. I don't require John McPhee to agree with me about the dangers posed by nuclear power and nuclear waste, and I would have welcomed a thoughtful, intelligent discussion of the issues, the kind of extended exploration of all facets of a subject that usually delights me about McPhee's treatment of a theme. McPhee is no stranger to nuclear subjects (his book on Ted Taylor, "The Curve of Binding Energy," showed him technically aware but politically naive), so I can only assume the omission of any mention of nuclear waste was not accidental. I feel betrayed by a trusted friend.… (more)



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