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Uncommon Carriers

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Uncommon Carriers Cover

ISBN13: 9780865477391
ISBN10: 0865477396
Condition: Worn Condition or Underlined
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

This is a book about people who drive trucks, captain ships, pilot towboats, drive coal trains, and carry lobsters through the air: people who work in freight transportation. John McPhee rides from Atlanta to Tacoma alongside Don Ainsworth, owner and operator of a sixty-five-foot, five-axle, eighteen-wheel chemical tanker carrying hazmats—in Ainsworths opinion “the worlds most beautiful truck,” so highly polished you could part your hair while looking at it. He goes “out in the sort” amongthe machines that process a million packages a day at UPS Airs distribution hub at Louisville International Airport. And (among other trips) he travels up the “tight-assed” Illinois River on a towboat pushing a triple string of barges, the overall vessel being “a good deal longer than the Titanic,” longer even than the Queen Mary 2.

Uncommon Carriers is classic work by McPhee, in prose distinguished, as always, by its authors warm humor, keen insight, and rich sense of human character.

John McPhee is a staff writer at The New Yorker. He is the author of twenty-nine books, all published by FSG. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
This is a book about people who drive trucks, captain ships, pilot towboats, drive coal trains, and carry lobsters through the air: people who work in freight transportation. John McPhee rides from Atlanta to Tacoma alongside Don Ainsworth, owner and operator of a sixty-five-foot, five-axle, eighteen-wheel chemical tanker carrying hazmats—in Ainsworths opinion “the worlds most beautiful truck,” so highly polished you could part your hair while looking at it. He goes “out in the sort” among the machines that process a million packages a day at UPS Airs distribution hub at Louisville International Airport. And (among other trips) he travels up the “tight-assed” Illinois River on a towboat pushing a triple string of barges, the overall vessel being “a good deal longer than the Titanic,” longer even than the Queen Mary 2.

Uncommon Carriers is classic work by McPhee, in prose distinguished, as always, by its authors warm humor, keen insight, and rich sense of human character.

"We often read about people in glamorous professions—surgeons, actors, musicians, writers—but so seldom about those who do the jobs we all depend on, those who transport raw materials on river barges, or haul the coal that generates electricity. If the human race survives another century or two, many of these jobs will vanish . . . and McPhee's work will provide an invaluable record of how those primitive people back in 2006, however heedless they were of what they were doing to their planet to their planet, treasured their bygone crafts."—Adam Hochschild, The New York Book Review
"We often read about people in glamorous professions—surgeons, actors, musicians, writers—but so seldom about those who do the jobs we all depend on, those who transport raw materials on river barges, or haul the coal that generates electricity. If the human race survives another century or two, many of these jobs will vanish (they're already talking about running trains by remote control), and McPhee's work will provide an invaluable record of how those primitive people back in 2006, however heedless they were of what they were doing to their planet, treasured their bygone crafts . . . I hope he'll take us for rides on some more uncommon carriers at [age] 85, perhaps a space station or a Mars rover or a submersible looking at what we've done to the ocean floor. These seem some of the few places he hasn't yet explored."—Adam Hochschild, The New York Times Book Review
 
"The veteran New Yorker writer has done it again, delving into seemingly mundane topics—in this case, the various methods of moving freight—and emerging with indelible portraits of anonymous, everyday people."—Erik Spanberg, The Christian Science Monitor
 
"This book will keep you going much longer [than eight hours]. It is Mr. McPhee at his wise, wry best, writing in top gear."—The Economist
 
“Thanks to McPhees elegant prose and his close observation, we learn a great deal about the machines. The author takes almost boyish pleasure in describing how to actually operate a towboat, or a mile-long coal train, and it is the pilots, engineers, and skippers he encounters who are the true ‘uncommon carriers of his title.”—Witold Rybczynski, The New York Review of Books
 
Uncommon Carriers is about the truckers, dispatchers, towboat crews, train drivers and trainee sea-captains whose lives revolve around shifting freight . . . This is also a book about people dwarfed by their surroundings—by the systems they operate, the machinery they drive, the distances they cover. Dwarfed—but not necessarily diminished . . . What fascinates McPhee, apart from the lives of the men and women he meets, is their oddly coded language. He likes that hard-crust jargon, with its acronyms and labels, not least, I think, because it reflects the dignified efforts of men and women to encompass and express facets of an alien world much larger than ourselves. Very gently, and without any superfluous comment, McPhee portrays ours as a Rabelaisian economy, a web of bloated, fundamentally brainless systems ingeniously devised to serve the world's appetites . . . [L]ike most of the experts he encounters . . . McPhee is also very good at what he does. He has written about geology in the past, and he deals with this stratum of American civilization in a deceptively neutral tone, as if he were describing tectonic plates: His prose has a tendency to stack up and roll on by like a two-mile boxcar railroad engine passing an impatient four-wheeler at a crossing . . . McPhee's uncommon carriers are, in their way, witness to the wilderness that is America, even to this day. In this absorbing and deceptively simple book, he goes back to Thoreau, paddling his way up a river that has already been worked over and abandoned by economic man.”—Jason Goodwin, The Washington Post Book World

"Once again [McPhee] shows how a writer starting with the single most valuable tool in the box—curiosity—employs a whole array of techniques, and makes what interests him interesting to other people. That's so whether he's writing about barge traffic on the Illinois River or retracing Thoreau's famous journey on the Concord and Merrimack rivers. There's just nobody better at what he does."—Jean Bubail, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
 
"Uncommon Carriers is an uncommonly fine bit of writing. New Yorker magazine writer John McPhee brings a discerning eye and succinct pen to his task. He transforms common carriers—trucks, trains, ships, barges and planes and everything—into unique vessels . . . Uncommon Carriers is perfect for the summer reader who prefers fact to fiction and who wants to learn some trivia . . . A delightful book."—Jules Wagman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
 
"A fascinating book. . . .  McPhee is a superb stylist, and his metaphors sing like truck tires."—Rob Kyff, Hartford Courant
 
"McPhee charms readers with an insider's look at various forms of freight carriers, including trucks, trains, and ocean tankers. He describes his personal experiences of traveling with a handful of people who transport bulk cargo . . . he identifies the exceptional talents and quirky personality of each driver, seaman, and conductor and wonders at the expertise of these unknown mavens. The captain of the SS Stella Lykes can parallel park a 700-foot ship in a 750-foot space without assistance. Pilot Mel Adams maneuvers a fully loaded tugboat four times longer than the river is wide, with as little as 10 feet of clearance where the river turns. Dan Ainsworth, chemical tanker driver, factors the weight of his fuel, the distance between truck stops, and the weight of his load to avoid exceeding the limit at weigh stations . . . each of the seven chapters is an adventure waiting to be taken individually or collectively. Students will learn of the danger, the technology, and the precision required to bring coal to heat peoples' houses, goods to their grocery stores, and imports to their harbors."—Brigeen Radoicich, Fresno County Office of Education, California, School Library Journal
 
"McPhee rides the rails, sits shotgun in a tanker truck and climbs aboard a river towboat as he investigates the ways in which the staples of modern life travel from one place to another. The seven chapters here, large portions of which have appeared in the New Yorker, for which the author is a staff writer, and the Atlantic Monthly, contain the trademark McPhee touches—unstinting attention to revealing details, a wry sense of humor and a way of rendering prosaic subjects fascinating. He really shines when he finds a character to match his interest in the mechanical, and truck driver Don Ainsworth, a central figure throughout two chapters, plays the perfect foil. As Ainsworth pilots his polished-chrome, 80,000-pounds-when-loaded chemical tanker truck across the country, McPhee reveals the driver's obsession with the Wall Street Journal, his collection of boots made from the skins of exotic animals such as water buffaloes and caimans and the technical skill it takes to steer his leviathan-sized vehicle clear of inattentive drivers and overeager cops ('four-wheelers' and 'bears,' in the driver's lingo). Elsewhere, the author hitches a ride on a coal train a mile-and-a-half long, attends a school in France where tanker-ship captains practice tricky maneuvers on a pond in scale-sized model ships and rides along as a towboat pushes a thousand-foot-long line of barges up the Illinois River. McPhee portrays the main UPS sorting center in Louisville as an enormous Rube Goldberg contraption in which the workers inside, many of them college students slogging through night shifts to pay tuition, appear tiny in the shadow of the behemoth that roars all around them. In the one chapter that drags somewhat—perhaps because the central character is long-deceased—McPhee canoes the Concord and Merrimack Rivers along the route taken by Henry David Thoreau in 1839. Read this colorful journalism and you will never view an 18-wheeler, freight train or UPS truck in quite the same way."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
"Famed for his geology epics, the popular McPhee here enters the world of heavy freight. Acutely attentive, he watches what an interstate truck driver, a railroad engineer, a towboat captain, and shipmasters do to conduct safely tens of thousands of tons of conveyance and cargo to their destinations. In spare, efficient prose, McPhee indicates, rather than directs readers toward, the skill and experience of the workers. They contend with a magnitude of inertia, and their maneuvers must anticipate peril ahead by miles. McPhee admiringly evokes the balletic performance on the gears and brakes by a truck driver, and on the throttles by a towboat captain as he negotiates the constrictions of the Illinois River; unfortunately, the shipmasters seem accident-prone, grounding and colliding their vessels. Their miscues are more educational than disastrous, thankfully, occurring far from sea near the French Alps, where a maritime school teaches ship handling with models on a pond. Hitching rides to describe how coal is moved, McPhee imparts a sense of the special sociology within each transportation mode, drawing from readers both enlightenment and respect."—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
 
“McPhee's 28th book is a grown-up version of every young boy's fantasy life, as the peripatetic writer gets to ride in the passenger seat in an 18-wheel truck, tag along on a barge ride up the Illinois River and climb into the cabin of a Union Pacific coal train that's over a mile long. He even gets to be the one-man crew on a 20-ton scale model of an ocean tanker in a French pond where ship pilots go for advanced training. As always, McPhee's eye for idiosyncratic detail keeps the stories . . . lively and frequently moves them in interesting directions. One chapter that starts out in a Nova Scotia lobster farm winds up in Louisville, Kentucky, where McPhee is quickly beguiled by the enormous UPS sorting facility. In a more intimate piece, he takes a canoe and retraces Thoreau's path along New England rivers, noting the modern urban sprawl as well as the wildlife. ‘There are two places in the world—home and everywhere else, the towboat captain tells McPhee, ‘and everywhere else is the same. But McPhee always uncovers the little differences that give every place its unique tale.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Synopsis:

This is a book about people who drive trucks, captain ships, pilot towboats, drive coal trains, and carry lobsters through the air: people who work in freight transportation. John McPhee rides from Atlanta to Tacoma alongside Don Ainsworth, owner and operator of a sixty-five-foot, five-axle, eighteen-wheel chemical tanker carrying hazmats--in Ainsworth's opinion the world's most beautiful truck, so highly polished you could part your hair while looking at it. He goes out in the sort among the machines that process a million packages a day at UPS Air's distribution hub at Louisville International Airport. And (among other trips) he travels up the tight-assed Illinois River on a towboat pushing a triple string of barges, the overall vessel being a good deal longer than the Titanic, longer even than the Queen Mary 2.

Uncommon Carriers is classic work by McPhee, in prose distinguished, as always, by its author's warm humor, keen insight, and rich sense of human character. John McPhee is a staff writer at The New Yorker. He is the author of twenty-nine books, all published by FSG. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey. This is a book about people who drive trucks, captain ships, pilot towboats, drive coal trains, and carry lobsters through the air: people who work in freight transportation. John McPhee rides from Atlanta to Tacoma alongside Don Ainsworth, owner and operator of a sixty-five-foot, five-axle, eighteen-wheel chemical tanker carrying hazmats--in Ainsworth's opinion the world's most beautiful truck, so highly polished you could part your hair while looking at it. He goes out in the sort among the machines that process a million packages a day at UPS Air's distribution hub at Louisville International Airport. And (among other trips) he travels up the tight-assed Illinois River on a towboat pushing a triple string of barges, the overall vessel being a good deal longer than the Titanic, longer even than the Queen Mary 2.

Uncommon Carriers is classic work by McPhee, in prose distinguished, as always, by its author's warm humor, keen insight, and rich sense of human character. We often read about people in glamorous professions--surgeons, actors, musicians, writers--but so seldom about those who do the jobs we all depend on, those who transport raw materials on river barges, or haul the coal that generates electricity. If the human race survives another century or two, many of these jobs will vanish . . . and McPhee's work will provide an invaluable record of how those primitive people back in 2006, however heedless they were of what they were doing to their planet to their planet, treasured their bygone crafts.--Adam Hochschild, The New York Book Review We often read about people in glamorous professions--surgeons, actors, musicians, writers--but so seldom about those who do the jobs we all depend on, those who transport raw materials on river barges, or haul the coal that generates electricity. If the human race survives another century or two, many of these jobs will vanish (they're already talking about running trains by remote control), and McPhee's work will provide an invaluable record of how those primitive people back in 2006, however heedless they were of what they were doing to their planet, treasured their bygone crafts . . . I hope he'll take us for rides on some more uncommon carriers at age] 85, perhaps a space station or a Mars rover or a submersible looking at what we've done to the ocean floor. These seem some of the few places he hasn't yet explored.--Adam Hochschild, The New York Times Book Review The veteran New Yorker writer has done it again, delving into seemingly mundane topics--in this case, the various methods of moving freight--and emerging with indelible portraits of anonymous, everyday people.--Erik Spanberg, The Christian Science Monitor This book will keep you going much longer than eight hours]. It is Mr. McPhee at his wise, wry best, writing in top gear.--The Economist Thanks to McPhee's elegant prose and his close observation, we learn a great deal about the machines. The author takes almost boyish pleasure in describing how to actually operate a towboat, or a mile-long coal train, and it is the pilots, engineers, and skippers he encounters who are the true 'uncommon carriers' of his title.--Witold Rybczynski, The New York Review of Books Uncommon Carriers is about the truckers, dispatchers, towboat crews, train drivers and trainee sea-captains whose lives revolve around shifting freight . . . This is also a book about people dwarfed by their surroundings--by the systems they operate, the machinery they drive, the distances they cover. Dwarfed--but not necessarily diminished . . . What fascinates McPhee, apart from the lives of the men and women he meets, is their oddly coded language. He likes that hard-crust jargon, with its acronyms and labels, not least, I think, because it reflects the dignified efforts of men and women to encompass and express facets of an alien world much larger than ourselves. Very gently, and without any superfluous comment, McPhee portrays ours as a Rabelaisian economy, a web of bloated, fundamentally brainless systems ingeniously devised to serve the world's appetites . . . L]ike most of the experts he encounters . . . McPhee is also very good at what he does. He has written about geology in the past, and he deals with this stratum of American civilization in a deceptively neutral tone, as if he were describing tectonic plates: His prose has a tendency to stack up and roll on by like a two-mile boxcar railroad engine passing an impatient four-wheeler at a crossing . . . McPhee's uncommon carriers are, in their way, witness to the wilderness that is America, even to this day. In this absorbing and deceptively simple book, he goes back to Thoreau, paddling his way up a river that has already been worked over and abandoned by economic man.--Jason Goodwin, The Washi

Synopsis:

McPhee, in prose distinguished by its warm humor, keen insight, and rich sense of human character, looks at the people who drive trucks, captain ships, pilot towboats, drive coal trains, and carry lobsters through the air: people who work in freight transportation.

About the Author

John McPhee is a staff writer at The New Yorker. He is the author of twenty- nine books, all published by FSG. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Barbara A, August 17, 2012 (view all comments by Barbara A)
Great read about the various forms of cargo carriers. Doesn't sound that interesting, does it? But it is!
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Richard Cox, October 4, 2008 (view all comments by Richard Cox)
An enjoyable book, if you are interested in reading about the lives of some of the people who "move the goods". You'll spend time with a long-haul trucker, a towboat crew, a train crew, and a ship's captain, among others. Well-written.
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(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
Thomas Kirby, May 12, 2007 (view all comments by Thomas Kirby)
This book is sort of a travelogue of places no tourist ever considers for their vacation, travelling by means also not in consideration by the average tourist. Reading this book, you will learn about what a truck driver, barge captain, freighter captain, or train engineer needs to learn and put up with. The book is a pleasant read, with gentle humor througout, with minimal sex and no violence. It got me through my subway commute.
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(4 of 7 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780865477391
Author:
McPhee, John
Publisher:
Farrar Straus Giroux
Subject:
General
Subject:
Essays
Subject:
General Transportation
Subject:
Transportation
Subject:
Freight and freightage
Subject:
Transportation - General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20070431
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
8.28 x 5.49 x 0.66 in

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Related Subjects


History and Social Science » Journalism » General
History and Social Science » Journalism » Journalists
Transportation » General
Travel » Travel Writing » General

Uncommon Carriers Used Trade Paper
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$5.95 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780865477391 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , This is a book about people who drive trucks, captain ships, pilot towboats, drive coal trains, and carry lobsters through the air: people who work in freight transportation. John McPhee rides from Atlanta to Tacoma alongside Don Ainsworth, owner and operator of a sixty-five-foot, five-axle, eighteen-wheel chemical tanker carrying hazmats--in Ainsworth's opinion the world's most beautiful truck, so highly polished you could part your hair while looking at it. He goes out in the sort among the machines that process a million packages a day at UPS Air's distribution hub at Louisville International Airport. And (among other trips) he travels up the tight-assed Illinois River on a towboat pushing a triple string of barges, the overall vessel being a good deal longer than the Titanic, longer even than the Queen Mary 2.

Uncommon Carriers is classic work by McPhee, in prose distinguished, as always, by its author's warm humor, keen insight, and rich sense of human character. John McPhee is a staff writer at The New Yorker. He is the author of twenty-nine books, all published by FSG. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey. This is a book about people who drive trucks, captain ships, pilot towboats, drive coal trains, and carry lobsters through the air: people who work in freight transportation. John McPhee rides from Atlanta to Tacoma alongside Don Ainsworth, owner and operator of a sixty-five-foot, five-axle, eighteen-wheel chemical tanker carrying hazmats--in Ainsworth's opinion the world's most beautiful truck, so highly polished you could part your hair while looking at it. He goes out in the sort among the machines that process a million packages a day at UPS Air's distribution hub at Louisville International Airport. And (among other trips) he travels up the tight-assed Illinois River on a towboat pushing a triple string of barges, the overall vessel being a good deal longer than the Titanic, longer even than the Queen Mary 2.

Uncommon Carriers is classic work by McPhee, in prose distinguished, as always, by its author's warm humor, keen insight, and rich sense of human character. We often read about people in glamorous professions--surgeons, actors, musicians, writers--but so seldom about those who do the jobs we all depend on, those who transport raw materials on river barges, or haul the coal that generates electricity. If the human race survives another century or two, many of these jobs will vanish . . . and McPhee's work will provide an invaluable record of how those primitive people back in 2006, however heedless they were of what they were doing to their planet to their planet, treasured their bygone crafts.--Adam Hochschild, The New York Book Review We often read about people in glamorous professions--surgeons, actors, musicians, writers--but so seldom about those who do the jobs we all depend on, those who transport raw materials on river barges, or haul the coal that generates electricity. If the human race survives another century or two, many of these jobs will vanish (they're already talking about running trains by remote control), and McPhee's work will provide an invaluable record of how those primitive people back in 2006, however heedless they were of what they were doing to their planet, treasured their bygone crafts . . . I hope he'll take us for rides on some more uncommon carriers at age] 85, perhaps a space station or a Mars rover or a submersible looking at what we've done to the ocean floor. These seem some of the few places he hasn't yet explored.--Adam Hochschild, The New York Times Book Review The veteran New Yorker writer has done it again, delving into seemingly mundane topics--in this case, the various methods of moving freight--and emerging with indelible portraits of anonymous, everyday people.--Erik Spanberg, The Christian Science Monitor This book will keep you going much longer than eight hours]. It is Mr. McPhee at his wise, wry best, writing in top gear.--The Economist Thanks to McPhee's elegant prose and his close observation, we learn a great deal about the machines. The author takes almost boyish pleasure in describing how to actually operate a towboat, or a mile-long coal train, and it is the pilots, engineers, and skippers he encounters who are the true 'uncommon carriers' of his title.--Witold Rybczynski, The New York Review of Books Uncommon Carriers is about the truckers, dispatchers, towboat crews, train drivers and trainee sea-captains whose lives revolve around shifting freight . . . This is also a book about people dwarfed by their surroundings--by the systems they operate, the machinery they drive, the distances they cover. Dwarfed--but not necessarily diminished . . . What fascinates McPhee, apart from the lives of the men and women he meets, is their oddly coded language. He likes that hard-crust jargon, with its acronyms and labels, not least, I think, because it reflects the dignified efforts of men and women to encompass and express facets of an alien world much larger than ourselves. Very gently, and without any superfluous comment, McPhee portrays ours as a Rabelaisian economy, a web of bloated, fundamentally brainless systems ingeniously devised to serve the world's appetites . . . L]ike most of the experts he encounters . . . McPhee is also very good at what he does. He has written about geology in the past, and he deals with this stratum of American civilization in a deceptively neutral tone, as if he were describing tectonic plates: His prose has a tendency to stack up and roll on by like a two-mile boxcar railroad engine passing an impatient four-wheeler at a crossing . . . McPhee's uncommon carriers are, in their way, witness to the wilderness that is America, even to this day. In this absorbing and deceptively simple book, he goes back to Thoreau, paddling his way up a river that has already been worked over and abandoned by economic man.--Jason Goodwin, The Washi

"Synopsis" by , McPhee, in prose distinguished by its warm humor, keen insight, and rich sense of human character, looks at the people who drive trucks, captain ships, pilot towboats, drive coal trains, and carry lobsters through the air: people who work in freight transportation.
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