Ideas for Group Discussions
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.