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In Suspect Terrain

John McPhee

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

From the outwash plains of Brooklyn to Indiana’s drifted diamonds and gold In Suspect Terrain is a narrative of the earth, told in four sections of equal length, each in a different way reflecting the three others—a biography; a set piece about a fragment of Appalachian landscape in illuminating counterpoint to the human history there; a modern collision of ideas about the origins of the mountain range; and, in contrast, a century-old collision of ideas about the existence of the Ice Age. The central figure is Anita Harris, an internationally celebrated geologist who went into her profession to get out of a Brooklyn ghetto. The unifying theme is plate tectonics—here concentrating on the acceptance that all aspects of the theory do not universally enjoy. As such, In Suspect Terrain is a report from the rough spots at the front edge of a science.

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In Suspect Terrain
The paragraph that follows is an encapsulated history of the eastern United States, according to plate-tectonic theory and glacial geology.About a thousand million years ago, a continent of unknown dimensions was rifted apart, creating an ancestral ocean more or less where the Atlantic is now. The older ocean has been called Iapetus, because Iapetus was the father of Atlas, for whom the Atlantic is named. Some geologists, who may feel that their science is dangerously clever, are snappish about Iapetus. They prefer to say proto-Atlantic. The ancestral ocean existed a great
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REVIEWS

Praise for In Suspect Terrain

“This is a book you cannot put down...It provides a great deal of information about the way many geologists think about science...and about the necessity for continual questioning and revising of new and old ideas. This is the best way science can remain healthy and continue to grow.”—Robert D. Hatcher, Jr., Natural History
“John McPhee does what no other writer has done ... He makes the earth move.” --R. Z. Sheppard, Time

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • John McPhee

  • John McPhee was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and was educated at Princeton University and Cambridge University. His writing career began at Time magazine and led to his long association with The New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1965. Also in 1965, he published his first book, A Sense of Where You Are, with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and in the years since, he has written nearly 30 books, including Oranges (1967), Coming into the Country (1977), The Control of Nature (1989), The Founding Fish (2002), Uncommon Carriers (2007), and Silk Parachute (2011). Encounters with the Archdruid (1972) and The Curve of Binding Energy (1974) were nominated for National Book Awards in the category of science. McPhee received the Award in Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters in 1977.  In 1999, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Annals of the Former World.  He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
  • John McPhee Peter Cook
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In Suspect Terrain

John McPhee

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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