Monday, July 27, 2015
Daniel Soloman's "Industry, Ingenuity, and Fracture: On John McPhee"
Daniel Soloman, in his "Industry, Ingenuity, and Fracture: On John McPhee" (Los Angeles Review of Books, July 24, 2015), treats McPhee’s collective works as a “moral history.” He says, “McPhee’s work can, in fact, be read as a moral history of American society and its institutions.” Soloman appears addicted to the word “moral.” He uses it seven times in his piece: “moral history,” “moral core,” “moral burden,” “moral tale,” “moral story,” “moral consequences,” “moral question.” He seems to view McPhee’s work not as art but as a set of moral instructions. I disagree with this approach. It detaches the “messages” of McPhee’s stories from the only medium in which they can live, the medium of their language. Soloman refers to McPhee’s “impressive craft,” but expresses no delight in it. His method is insufficient to McPhee’s exquisite artistry.