Books: Little Aristocracy

A ROOMFUL OF HOVINGS by John McPhee. 250 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $5.95.

Composing a New Yorker profile is a little like squeezing toothpaste from a half empty tube. Fighting all normal impulses, the writer begins at the wrong end. With infinite patience, he applies limp but meticulous pressure. After what seems like hours of low-level suspense, out oozes the substance. The only appropriate applause is a subdued "Hear, hear."

New Yorker Staffer John McPhee, a man who can write—and has written—a whole book about oranges, obviously has the qualifications of mind and...

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