Men's Lives (Magill's Literary Annual 1987)
Few subjects have received the loving attentiveness which Peter Matthiessen gives the men who live and fish along the eastern tip of Long Island. They are, as in the book’s subtitle, “surfmen and baymen,” or fishermen who fish in the surf and, in proper season, go to the bays and inlets of Long Island for scallops, clams, oysters, eels, and more. The tenderness suffusing this book is analogous to the feeling a naturalist shows for a vanishing species, the difference being that Matthiessen is one with the men he portrays, worries over, and loves in a way no naturalist can be with a threatened creature.
After graduation from Yale University in the early 1950’s, Matthiessen settled on Long Island and became a surfman and bayman. During his first three years, he worked for Ted Lester on a seine-haul crew. That is to say he netted fish from a boat in a mode not unlike that practiced by Jesus’ disciples. His career destiny eventually led him to other things—the books of fiction and nonfiction for which he is famous—but the three years on Lester’s boat made an impression on the writer which the intervening years have only served to deepen. As he says in Men’s Lives: The Surfmen and Baymen of the South Fork, the pleasures of a royalty check paled next to the rich daily involvement with water, wind, fish, and fellow workers....
(The entire section is 2357 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1987)
Booklist. LXXXII, May 15, 1986, p. 1343.
Library Journal. CXI, May 1, 1986, p. 112.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. August 24, 1986, p. 9.
National Fisherman. LXVII, November, 1986, p. 134.
The New York Review of Books. XXXIII, October 23, 1986, p. 21.
The New York Times Book Review. XCI, June 22, 1986, p. 1.
Newsweek. CVIII, August 11, 1986, p. 57.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXIX, March 28, 1986, p. 44.
Time. CXXVIII, July 7, 1986, p. 63.
Washington Post Book World. XVI, June 29, 1986, p. 5.
(The entire section is 59 words.)