John McPhee

American writer

John Angus McPhee (born 8 March 1931) is an American writer and journalist, who is considered one of the pioneers of creative nonfiction.

The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone.


  • Almost all Americans would recognize Anchorage, because Anchorage is that part of any city where the city has burst its seams and extruded Colonel Sanders.
    • Coming into the Country (1976) page 130
  • When the climbers in 1953 planted their flags on the highest mountain, they set them in snow over the skeletons of creatures that had lived in the warm clear ocean that India, moving north, blanked out. Possibly as much as twenty thousand feet below the seafloor, the skeletal remains had formed into rock. This one fact is a treatise in itself on the movements of the surface of the earth. If by some fiat I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence, this is the one I would choose: The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone.
    • Basin and Range (1981), reprinted in Annals of the Former World (2000)
  • You see the rivers running east. Then you see mountains rise. Rivers run off them to the west. Mountains come up like waves. They crest, break, and spread themselves westward. When they are spent, there is an interval of time, and then again you see the rivers running eastward. You look over the shoulder of the painter and you see all that in the landscape. You see it if first you have seen it in the rock. The composition is almost infinitely less than the sum of its parts, the flickers and glimpses of a thousand million years.
    • In Suspect Terrain (1983), reprinted in Annals of the Former World (2000) page 209.
  • In making war with nature, there was risk of loss in winning.
    • The Control of Nature (1989)
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