Uncommon Carriers.

Position:Book review

***1/2 Uncommon Carriers By John McPhee Ease on down the road, rail, and river. There's Point A and there's Point B. Most of us live somewhere in between, at least as far as America's transportation system is concerned. Whether carrying Maine lobsters to the Palm restaurant in Denver or sloshing WD-40 in the back of a big rig down a precipitous mountain grade, the uncommon carriers of John McPhee's latest collection of essays are a tentacular network of ships, trucks, and trains that do the heavy lifting so we don't have to. And sometimes, as McPhee makes clear in his exploration of a UPS shipping facility that he compares to the "Great Mosque of Cordoba," the journey is just as interesting as the destination.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 256 pages. $24. ISBN: 0374280398

Boston Globe ****

"He has chosen a fascinating, important subject--how America works, each and every day, in ways we take for granted and should not. He has allowed that subject to speak for itself, through its people and places, continually finding magic in the ordinary." ROBERT BRAILE

Christian Science Monitor ****

"[Uncommon Carriers contains] fine reporting and expert vignettes percolating in just about every paragraph.... At times, McPhee's unusual travelogue morphs into an oxymoron: a freight thriller." ERIK SPANBERG

San Francisco Chronicle ****

"Is God in the details or in the structure? McPhee is a polytheist; the particulars are his meat ... and the story's arrangement his potatoes. He is a civilizing writer, plainspoken as canvas sneakers, his essays seasoned like two-year-old firewood, burning steady, clean and bright." PETER LEWIS

Seattle Times ***1/2

"John McPhee makes his living telling stories you didn't think you were interested in. He gets by with it on the strength of a friendly sense of humor and a talent for explaining complex situations." BOB SIMMONS

Rocky Mountain News ***1/2

"There's just enough flavor from true...

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