I was excited yesterday when I saw that John McPhee’s Annals of the Former World is finally on Kindle, and is selling for less than 9 dollars. It is a masterful treatment of the geology of North America, from one of the best science writers ever. So I bought it immediately and dived into the first book, Basin and Range this morning. The first chapter has a passage that’s appropriate for the Fourth of July, reflecting on the geological and zoological divisions instead of political ones:
The United States: really a quartering of a continent, a drawer in North America. Pull it out and prairie dogs would spill off one side, alligators off the other -- a terrain crisscrossed with geological boundaries, mammalian boundaries, amphibian boundaries: the limits of the world of the river frog, the extent of the Nugget formation, the range of the mountain cougar. The range of the cougar is the cougar's natural state, overlying segments of tens of thousands of other states, a few of them proclaimed a nation. The United States of America, with its capital city on the Atlantic Coastal Plain.