Picks and Pans Review: Giving Good Weight

UPDATED 01/14/1980 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/14/1980 at 01:00 AM EST

by John McPhee

The author of Oranges, Coming into the Country and The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed examines in this collection the bustle of a farmers' market in New York; the meticulous planning for a floating nuclear power plant off New Jersey; a shootout between two grandmasters of pinball; a canoe trip down a majestic, remote and imperiled Maine river; and the habits and opinions of an iconoclastic restaurateur. The typically encyclopedic essays, culled from McPhee's prodigious New Yorker output of the last four years, are assembled from chips and blocks of sharply perceived, often surprising detail (for example, the cyclist on a $500 English racer who pays for his peppers at the Greenmarket with a food stamp). The piece about a small, pretentious rural New Jersey restaurant which McPhee tried not to identify became a minor cause célèbre because it contained a major mistake—rare for The New Yorker—and led to some embarrassing questions. But McPhee has earned the right to an occasional gaffe. Usually, like the farmers in the title work, he gives good weight. (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, $9.95)

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