May 15, 2018
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Looking For A Ship

by John McPhee

After reading in Draft Number 4 how McPhee puts things together, it seemed a really good idea to go back and look at the practice. A wonderful book, the epitome of the New Yorker profile that talks at considerable length about a subject of no particular interest, written with such wit and craft that it’s enthralling. Terrible Terry Harmon and Dirty Shirt George Price: McPhee draws amazing portraits in short gestural strokes. McPhee is not afraid of repetition:

Leadline and Dirty Shirt and Terrible Terry — they did not back off from anyone. I learned from them to maintain a gulf between yourself and the other officers. I learned, Never cross that gulf. I learned, Don’t act like the other officers, dress like them, or socialize with them. I learned, Don’t be like them. Whatever they are, be different. Never waver in your dealings with them. Don’t vacillate. I learned, Never chastise people in public, even if they have earned it. I learned, Don’t alibi, don’t complain.