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?
The Patch, John McPhee’s new book, could only have been written by a journalist with decades of experience and an archivist’s disposition ... Although there are many lovely passages in The Patch, a handful are frustratingly short. A single paragraph on Peter O’Toole, sun-scorched and battered after shooting 'Lawrence of Arabia,' is beautifully written — if only it weren’t so fleeting. But such is the nature of this project. McPhee, a journalistic pack rat, has shared the best of his archives, and the result is a valuable overview of a long, peripatetic career.