OVERRIDE

Assembling California

John McPhee

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

At various times in a span of fifteen years, John McPhee made geological field surveys in the company of Eldridge Moores, a tectonicist at the University of California at Davis. The result of these trips is Assembling California, a cross-section in human and geologic time, from Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada through the golden foothills of the Mother Lode and across the Great Central Valley to the wine country of the Coast Ranges, the rock of San Francisco, and the San Andreas family of faults. The two disparate time scales occasionally intersect—in the gold disruptions of the nineteenth century no less than in the earthquakes of the twentieth—and always with relevance to a newly understood geologic history in which half a dozen large and separate pieces of country are seen to have drifted in from far and near to coalesce as California. McPhee and Moores also journeyed to remote mountains of Arizona and to Cyprus and northern Greece, where rock of the deep-ocean floor has been transported into continental settings, as it has in California. Global in scope and a delight to read, Assembling California is a sweeping narrative of maps in motion, of evolving and dissolving lands.

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  You go down through the Ocean View district of San Francisco to the first freeway exit after Daly City, where you describe, in effect, a hairpin turn to head north past a McDonald’s to a dead end in a local dump. It is called the Daly City Scavenger Company. You leave your car and walk north on a high contour some hundreds of yards through deep grasses until a path to your left takes you down a steep slope a quarter of a mile to the ocean. You double back along the water, south to Mussel Rock.Mussel Rock is a horse. As any geologist will tell you, a horse is a displaced rock mass that
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Praise for Assembling California

“A delicious field manual on the creation of the Golden State going back a few hundred million years.” – Peter Stack, The San Francisco Chronicle

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • John McPhee

  • John McPhee is the author of twenty-six books, including Annals of the Former World, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1999. He has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1965 and lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
  • John McPhee Peter Cook
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Assembling California

John McPhee

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