"Woven into his writing is a gnawing sense that something grand, something infinite, some great connective tissue, some veiling gossamer, with each fiber affixing itself to the myriad other fibers, spider-silk threads enveloping and intertwining everything that is and ever was and ever will be, has been lost—and a hope beyond reason that that which has been lost may perpetually have a chance for recovery, if only for a moment.
“In the grand cosmology of John McPhee,” writes Sam Anderson, “all the earth’s facts touch one another—all its regions, creatures, and eras. Its absences and presences. Fish, trucks, atoms, bears, whiskey, grass, rocks, lacrosse, weird prehistoric oysters, grandchildren, and Pangea. Every part of time touches every other part of time.”
McPhee’s found connections and juxtapositions, entanglements and familial resemblances, influences and complications, analogies and reverberations hint at the ever-yearned-for major complex weave of the universe. Our spot as spiders, though not necessarily at the center of the web—for McPhee, unlike some contemporary purveyors of the personal essay and the memoir, is no narcissist—is somewhere among those silk-spun cables, simultaneously the weavers of meaning and the ones for whom this has been woven."