In Response to: Writing with the Master

I read with great pleasure the Nov. 12 cover article on John McPhee ’53.

Not only is John McPhee ’53 an extraordinarily talented writer, he is a fundamental part of a favorite Vodrey family story. In the 1960s or thereabouts, my grandfather Bill Vodrey ’26 wrote to Mr. McPhee, care of The New Yorker, to “correct” something he felt Mr. McPhee had gotten wrong in the magazine. Mr. McPhee promptly wrote back to my grandfather, thanking him for the information. My grandfather apparently took Mr. McPhee’s response as confirmation of some sort of editorial partnership, and he wrote three or four more times with other “improvements” to other McPhee New Yorker pieces. By the third or fourth offering, Mr. McPhee’s letter back to my grandfather read, in its entirety:

“Dear Mr. Vodrey: Who are you? Sincerely, John McPhee”

I recently wrote to Mr. McPhee myself regarding a New Yorker piece of his. He was kind enough to send a lengthy, handwritten response in which he remembered that funny letter he’d written to my grandfather. He is a class act.

Catherine Stroud Vodrey k’26 k’57