Cover image for The Peter Matthiessen reader : nonfiction, 1959-1991
The Peter Matthiessen reader : nonfiction, 1959-1991
Matthiessen, Peter.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Vintage Books, 2000.

Physical Description:
xxix, 359 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
"A Vintage original"--T.p. verso.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3563.A8584 A6 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS3563.A8584 A6 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"Our greatest modern nature writer in the lyrical tradition." -- The New York Times Book Review

"Matthiessen is a great travel companion. . . . His knowledge of plants, animals and people is breathtaking." -- The Boston Globe

Perhaps no writer has better articulated our relationship to the environment than Peter Matthiessen. From Wildlife in America to Men's Lives , his work has captured the wonder of the natural world--and the horrors of resource exploitation, with its violent effects on traditional peoples and the poor.

In The Peter Matthiessen Reader , editor McKay Jenkins presents a single-volume collection of this distinguished author's nonfiction. Here are essays and excerpts that highlight the spiritual, literary, and political daring so crucial to Matthiessen's vision. Matthiessen chronicles his 250-mile trek across the Himalaya to the Tibetan Plateau in a selection from the National Book Award winner The Snow Leopard . Wild peoples, wilderness, and wildlife--common themes throughout Matthiessen's oeuvre--are examined with grace and power in The Tree Where Man Was Born . Here too are excerpts from Indian Country and In the Spirit of Crazy Horse , Matthiessen's stunning exposé of the Leonard Peltier case and the ongoing conflict between the U.S. government and the American Indian Movement. Comprehensive and engrossing, The Peter Matthiessen Reader celebrates an American voice unequaled in its commitment to literature's noblest aspiration: to challenge us to perceive our world--as well as ourselves--truthfully and clearly.

Author Notes

Peter Matthiessen was born in Manhattan, New York on May 22, 1927. He served in the Navy at Pearl Harbor. He graduated with a degree in English from Yale University in 1950. It was around this time that he was recruited by the CIA and traveled to Paris, where he became acquainted with several young expatriate American writers. In the postwar years the CIA covertly financed magazines and cultural programs to counter the spread of Communism. While in Paris, he helped found The Paris Review in 1953.

After returning to the United States, he worked as a commercial fisherman and the captain of a charter fishing boat. His first novel, Race Rock, was published in 1954. His other fiction works include Partisans, Raditzer, Far Tortuga, and In Paradise. His novel, Shadow Country, won a National Book Award. His novel, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, was made into a movie.

He started writing nonfiction after divorcing his first wife. An assignment for Sports Illustrated to report on American endangered species led to the book Wildlife in America, which was published in 1959. His travels took him to Asia, Australia, South America, Africa, New Guinea, the Florida swamps, and beneath the ocean. These travels led to articles in The New Yorker as well as numerous nonfiction books including The Cloud Forest: A Chronicle of the South American Wilderness, Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons of Stone Age New Guinea, Blue Meridian: The Search for the Great White Shark, The Tree Where Man Was Born, and Men's Lives. The Snow Leopard won the 1979 National Book Award for nonfiction. He died from leukemia on April 5, 2014 at the age of 86.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

An introduction to Matthiessen's nonfiction, this collection of excerpts will inspire the novice to indulge further and convince those already familiar with his work to reconnect. Jenkins (literature and writing, Univ. of Delaware) provides a thoughtful preface, placing the excerpts in the context of Matthiessen's literary life and providing complementary biographical information. Each excerpt is introduced with a brief overview that provides the place and time and identifies them as a source of inspiration for "an entire generation of writers who have collectively helped make `nature writing' one of the vibrant fields in contemporary American literature." For all the literary excellence in Matthiessen's nonfiction prose (of which the excerpts in this reader are prime examples), Jenkins reiterates Matthiessen's desire to be first and foremost a novelist. This book is highly recommended for all public and academic libraries. [See also Mathiessen's Tigers in the Snow, reviewed on p. 153--Ed.]--Sue Samson, Univ. of Montana Lib., Missoula (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.