Peter Matthiessen Biography


ph_0111226273-Matthiessen.jpg Peter Matthiessen Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Peter Matthiessen was born in New York City to Erard A. and Elizabeth C. Matthiessen on May 22, 1927. He developed his lifelong interest in nature and the environment early in life. His father, an architect, was a trustee of the National Audubon Society, and Peter soon developed a passion for the natural world, spending much of his youth in the Connecticut and New York countryside.

After serving in the United States Navy, Matthiessen attended the Sorbonne, University of Paris, from 1948 to 1949 and received a B.A. from Yale University in 1950. After teaching creative writing at Yale in 1950, he returned to Paris and developed friendships with a variety of American expatriate writers, including James Baldwin, Richard Wright, William Styron, Terry Southern, and Irwin Shaw. With Harold L. Humes, Matthiessen founded the Paris Review in 1951. He married Patricia Southgate in 1951; they divorced in 1958. In 1963 he married Deborah Love, who died in 1972. In 1980 he married Patricia Eckhart; they live on Long Island, New York.

While in Paris, Matthiessen wrote his first novel, Race Rock (1954). His other novels include Partisans (1955), Raditzer (1961), At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1965), Far Tortuga (1975), and a trilogy about the Florida Everglades, which includes Killing Mister Watson (1990), Lost Man’s River (1997), and Bone by Bone (1999). Matthiessen has published two collections of short stories, On the River Styx, and Other Stories in 1998 and Midnight Turning Gray in 1984.

Matthiessen worked as a commercial...

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One of the most respected modern American writers expressing natural history and environmental concerns, Matthiessen focuses on threatened and vanishing environments and on human cultures. He sees modern technology as the chief threat and cause of destruction. He has traveled widely and brings his careful attention to everything that he observes and records. His writing is powerful and evocative, and does not shy away from unpleasantness. Matthiessen can hardly be called a writer of simple travelogues or “nature books, ”for his work also records his pursuit of moral vision, reflecting his own deep journeyings—interior explorations that take place while he contemplates and reports.

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