Maybe if the book had bombed, Bill would have remained primarily a journalist, but Testing the Current was met with the kind of reception writers fantasize about. In my copy of the original, I stuck three of the reviews that greeted the novel’s appearance. Russell Banks, in the NY Times, opens his piece with this: ‘William McPherson’s first novel is an extraordinarily intelligent, powerful and, I believe, permanent contribution to the literature of family, childhood and memory.’ People proclaims that Testing the Current is ‘a beautiful first novel that provides a sharp, glowing portrait of a Midwestern town on the eve of World War II. McPherson’s loving attention to detail and the … funny, moving point of view keep the writing constantly fresh and involving.’ USA Today says the novel ’…is brilliant. In places it is absolutely breathtaking.’
—Terence Winch on William McPherson and the reception of his debut novel, Testing the Current, when originally published in 1984. Mr. Winch had attended the conversation between McPherson and literary critic Michael Dirda held last Saturday at Politics & Prose in Washington, D. C., and wrote about it on the The Best American Poetry blog.