The Control of Nature

John McPhee

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

0374522596

9780374522599

Trade Paperback

288 Pages

$16.00

CAD18.50

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The Control of Nature is John McPhee's bestselling account of places in the world where people have been engaged in all-out battles with nature. In Louisiana, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has declared war on the lower Mississippi River, which threatens to follow a new route to the sea and cut off New Orleans and Baton Rouge from the rest of the United States. Icelanders confront flowing red lava in an attempt to save a crucial harbor. In Los Angeles, basins are built to catch devastating debris flows from the San Gabriel Mountains.

Taking us deep into these contested territories, McPhee details the strategies and tactics through which people attempt to control nature. Most striking is his depiction of the main contestants: nature in complex and awesome guises, and those attempting to wrest control from her—stubborn, sometimes foolhardy, more often ingenious, and always arresting characters.

REVIEWS

Praise for The Control of Nature

"All three elemental battles recounted by the masterly McPhee are unified by the most uncontrolled and stubborn of all forces: human nature."—R. Z. Sheppard, Time

"It is difficult to put these stories aside. If the stories bear witness to the ultimate triumph of nature over human engineering, they also testify to the triumph over art over nature."—Stephen J. Pyne, The New York Times Book Review (front page)

"This book is unmistakable McPhee: the silky narrative, with keen detail and sharp dialogue, the finely drawn characters, the nimble metaphors."—Stephen MacDonald, The Wall Street Journal

"Some of [McPhee's] passages left me gasping for breath . . . This book gave me more pure enjoyment than anything I've read in a long time."—Christopher Shaw, The Washington Post Book World

Reviews from Goodreads

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BOOK EXCERPTS

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Control of Nature, The
AtchafalayaTHREE HUNDRED MILES up the Mississippi River from its mouth--many parishes above New Orleans and well north of Baton Rouge--a navigation lock in the Mississippi's right bank allows ships to drop out of the river. In evident defiance of nature, they descend as much as thirty-three feet, then go off to the west or south. This, to say the least, bespeaks a rare relationship between a river and adjacent terrain--any river, anywhere, let alone the third-ranking river on earth. The adjacent terrain is Cajun country, in a geographical sense the apex of the French Acadian
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • John McPhee

  • John McPhee is the author of more than 25 books, including Annals of the Former World, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction in 1999. He has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1965 and lives in Princeton, New Jersey. McPhee's Encounters with the Archdruid and The Curve of Binding Energy were both nominated for National Book Awards in the category of science.
  • John McPhee Peter Cook
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