Peter Hessler, who wrote for The New Yorker from Egypt, the subject of his latest book, is returning to China, where he taught English for two years from 1996, a stint recounted in his first book, River Town. In an interview with Frank Bures for the website Longreads, he talks about his career and how John McPhee, the veteran New Yorker contributor, was a formative influence:
McPhee had a lot of technical lessons, but I think the most important thing was the deeper ways of thinking about writing. One of them, for me, was that you can do fascinating creative writing as a nonfiction writer. I had always been so focused on fiction that I was kind of turned off by the newspaper style of writing. My parents didn’t get The New Yorker, so I didn’t realize there were these other ways of writing nonfiction, and that it could be just as dynamic and fascinating as fiction, and just as artistic.