Finely curated, as expected for an essayist who lives and breathes structure ... McPhee flawlessly moves from gravity to levity ... Such pieces are tastes of his willingness to let the world around him just be and to marvel at mysteries of all variety ... One wishes John McPhee would write about everything, his words an introduction to all of life’s flavors.
... The Patch, is a miscellany of pieces that have not previously appeared in books ... No matter the subject, these pieces embody a surface ease and grace accomplished only through relentless polishing ... The 'quilt' [of vignettes composing the book] is made up of brief excerpted pieces from The New Yorker and Time, his first employer, and display McPhee’s boundless curiosity and ability to unwind complicated subjects. They also expose one of the book’s weaknesses — that many of those he profiles are dead. Cary Grant, Oscar Hammerstein, Sophia Loren, Richard Burton, Peter Sellers are included. The likes of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Nicole Kidman are not ... What nonetheless keeps us reading is McPhee’s gift for the delicious turn of phrase ... You will also appreciate the McPhee wit ... The publisher calls this book 'a covert memoir,' on the book flap, but it’s merely a tease. Is there any hope for the real thing?
In The Patch, [McPhee] again shamelessly employs his go-to strategy: crafting sentences so energetic and structurally sound that he can introduce apparently unappealing subjects, even ones that look to be encased in a cruddy veneer of boringness, and persuade us to care about them. He’s been working this angle since the 1950s; it’s a good thing we’re finally onto him now ... McPhee finds surprising poetry in the material at hand, as in his list of found golf balls emblazoned with the names of mutual funds ... The Patch is just another chapter in an ongoing memoir of generous curiosity ... About the only essay in this collection that McPhee can’t elevate is an account of an N.C.A.A. lacrosse game pitting the University of Denver against Syracuse.