Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

At Play in the Fields of the Lord is the most firmly plotted of Matthiessen's fictions: The developing story line provides both a sense of...

(The entire section is 173 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Peter Matthiessen's fictions ought to provoke lively discussion, in that the issues he recurrently approaches are of real and continuing...

(The entire section is 277 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bawer, Bruce. The Aspect of Eternity. St. Paul, Minn.: Graywolf Press, 1993. Contains an essay called “Peter Matthiessen, Nature Boy,” a generally unflattering critique of Matthiessen’s novels prior to Killing Mister Watson. Argues that Matthiessen romanticizes the primitive and hypocritically attacks American and Western civilization. It also traces what Bawer calls an “antagonism toward fathers” in Matthiessen’s work.

Bishop, Peter. “The Geography of Hope and Despair: Peter Mathiessen’s The Snow Leopard.” Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction 26, no. 4 (1984): 203-216. Places Matthiessen alongside other literary travelers such as Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, and D. H. Lawrence. Discusses in-depth The Snow Leopard and compares it to Far Tortuga and At Play in the Fields of the Lord. Sees the book’s lack of conclusion as its success. A thought-provoking article which presents psychological insights into Matthiessen.

Gabriel, Trip. “The Nature of Peter Matthiessen.” The New York Times Magazine, June 10, 1990, 30. An insightful profile, based on interviews with Matthiessen and his circle. Gabriel focuses on Killing Mister Watson but also provides an overview of Matthiessen’s career. Neither sycophantic nor hostile, Gabriel presents a nuanced portrait of the man behind the books.

Grove, James P. “Pastoralism and Anti-Pastoralism in Peter Matthiessen’s Far Tortuga.Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction 21, no. 2 (1979): 15-29. Discusses this highly praised novel and reflects on the influence of Zen on Matthiessen’s views. An in-depth treatment of the content and intent of this novel within the theme of pastoralism.

Raglon, Rebecca. “Fact and Fiction: The Development of Ecological Form in Peter Matthiessen’s Far Tortuga.” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 35, no. 4 (1994): 245-259. Looks at Matthiessen’s work, Far Tortuga especially, as a criticism of the dualistic view of nature and humanity. Raglon argues that Matthiessen sees no separation between nature and humanity and writes instead of their necessary interrelatedness.

Shnayerson, Michael. “Higher Matthiessen.” Vanity Fair 54, no. 12 (1991): 114-132. Contains considerable biographical information and gives a balanced view of Matthiessen’s personal strengths and weaknesses.

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Matthiessen's work can be compared to any number of precursors. The evocation of the humid South American wilderness in At Play in the Fields...

(The entire section is 243 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

A film version of At Play in the Fields of the Lord, starring Tom Berenger, John Lithgow, and Daryl Hannah, was released in 1991. Although...

(The entire section is 80 words.)