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The Pine Barrens by John McPhee

The Pine Barrens (1968)

by John McPhee

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This is a perfect read for learning more about New Jersey's backwoods areas. John McPhee's writing talents shine through as he introduces the eclectic characters who live in the Pine Barrens. ( )
  Stembie3 | Jun 14, 2015 |
I’m not sure why I even have this book. Perhaps I tossed this into the pot with another book by John McPhee? I read it now because I’d been writing a review of Toms River which is on the edge of the pine barrens, and because it is short so why not. It was published as a book in 1967 after a run in New Yorker magazine. My paperback is recent. An epilogue of changes since then would’ve been a welcome feature, especially since the last chapter is about schemes in the past and pressures in the then-present to sell and develop the land. Also an index would’ve been nice. 45 years is long enough ago that it’s not so clear how much is time and how much is place. Local characters throughout, not so very exotic, but there is an interesting chapter on forest fires, and a couple of botanical bits stood out for me. (1) This is where cultivated blueberries were developed. In 1911, Elizabeth White read an article in a USDA publication suggesting the possibility of crossing wild blueberries for improved varieties, and invited its author Frederick Colville to use her family land for experiments. The collaboration was commercially successful, and some of the results were named after the “pineys” who collected blueberries, for example the Rubel blueberry. (2) An episode of Edgar Wherry leading a field trip through the woods, pointing to a “weed of civilization”, ebony spleenwort. It is not a pine barrens native, could not be, because the soil is too acidic. It enters as spores, and grows where lime was used for buildings, marking ruins even if there is no other visible evidence.

(read 30 Sep 2013)
  qebo | Sep 30, 2013 |
This is the portrait of a time and a culture that is now gone. The trees are still here, as are the bogs and ponds, but the life of the region has changed completely since McPhee wrote this book in 1968. ( )
  barringer | Dec 30, 2012 |
Excellent literary journalism. Fairly short, this content originally appeared in the New Yorker. The book tells the story of an obscure region of New Jersey called the Pine Barrens. In the most densely populated state, this wilderness is relatively empty of people and is almost entirely undeveloped (the book was written in 1967 and i do not know what it is like now). The story moves along at a gradual pace, but is never boring. The wrap-up is excellent. It's amazing that so near the Eastern Seaboard megapolis (New York, Philly, Boston, DC, etc) is this sparsely inhabited region of self-sufficient individualists who live off the land for the most part. I would highly recommend this book. ( )
  cblaker | Nov 6, 2012 |
John McPhee describes the geography and history of the pine barrens of south central New Jersey. I read the book before visiting the area after my oldest son moved to central New Jersey. I recommend it to anyone living nearby, planning to visit the area, or with an interest in the early history of European settlements of North America. ( )
  ElRemaro | Jul 26, 2012 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John McPheeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Curtsinger, BillPhotographermain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Graves, JamesIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Pryde
and for her father
Charles Mitchell Brown
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From the fire tower on Bear Swamp Hill, in Washington Township, Burlington County, New Jersey, the view usually extends about twelve miles.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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First published in: The New Yorker (1967)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374514429, Paperback)

Contrary to popular opinion, the whole of New Jersey is not a continuous Superfund site enlivened solely by poorly labeled Turnpike exits and skanky diners. In fact, the largest essentially untouched wilderness east of the Mississippi comprises nearly half the state: the New Jersey Pine Barrens. This more than 1,000-square-mile region has only a few thousand inhabitants--the Pineys, whose way of life has remained essentially unchanged since the 17th century. McPhee--one of the finest American essayists of the 20th century--has written an extraordinarily compelling, informative, and insightful book about the botanical, cultural, hydrological, and historical peculiarities of this region. He also details the efforts to save it from the creeping urbanization of nearby Philadelphia and New York City. Very Highly Recommended.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:38 -0400)

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