The Control of Nature is John McPhee's bestselling account of places where people are locked in combat with nature. Taking us deep into these contested territories, McPhee details the strageties and tactics through which people attempt to control nature. Most striking is his depiction of the main contestants: nature in complex and awesome guises, and those attempting to wrest control from her - stubborn, sometimes foolhardy, more often ingenious, and always arresting characters.
Man vs. Nature, sometimes it is difficult to tell which is winning: in Louisiana, engineers struggle to keep the Mississippi River on course; in Iceland, people once blocked a flow of lava that threatened to destroy a major harbor; in Southern California, the fight goes on to secure houses against rock- and mudslides. The incomparable McPhee ( Basin and Range , etc.) takes us to these battlefields, introducing the challengers and describing the circumstances at the front. He reviews the history of attempts to control the lower Mississippi, where Nature has eventually won. McPhee's account of the volcanic eruption in Iceland is vivid and dramatic--we feel our feet growing hot from the lava. And his report on the Los Angeles mudslides is nightmarish in detail. Despite the ingenious solutions (or deterrents) found to these problems, the reader is left with the feeling that Nature will triumph once more. These pieces are reprinted from the New Yorker. (June)