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Occupation: Novelist

Christopher Beha: Peter Matthiessen

30 July 2014
In Paradise 
by Peter Matthiessen.
Oneworld, 246 pp., £12.99, April 2014, 978 1 78074 555 8
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... I was so angry​ ,’ Peter Matthiessen said late in his life of his early days as a writer. ‘I was constantly in a contest … with my father.’ He’d grown up rich in Connecticut and New York, attended Yale, but found himself in ‘combat with the world’ for reasons he couldn’t understand; his early novels reflect this ...

Who’s to blame?

Kathryn Tidrick

25 February 1993
The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State 
by Basil Davidson.
James Currey, 372 pp., £9.95, September 1992, 0 85255 700 0
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Hearts of Darkness: The European Exploration of Africa 
by Frank McLynn.
Hutchinson, 390 pp., £18.99, August 1992, 0 09 177082 3
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African Silences 
by Peter Matthiessen.
Harvill, 225 pp., £7.99, September 1992, 0 00 271186 9
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... speaking his mind, getting it wrong sometimes, looking on the bright side, and staying involved. Peter Matthiessen, the accomplished author of numerous books of travel and of wry and terrible tales of violence on remote frontiers, perhaps also considers himself a friend of Africa. He loves to be there and incessantly returns: there are many things in ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Hemingway the Spy

16 February 2017
... only so much damage one can do with a Robert Frost interview, but that didn’t stop the late Peter Matthiessen, one of the founding editors, from now and then leaving the office, or the Himalayas, to spy on supposed enemies of the United States. Matthiessen later said he had used the magazine as cover for some ...
10 September 1992
Shining Path: The World’s Deadliest Revolutionary Force 
by Simon Strong.
HarperCollins, 274 pp., £16.99, June 1992, 0 00 215930 9
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Shining Path of Peru 
edited by David Scott Palmer.
Hurst, 271 pp., £12.95, June 1992, 1 85065 152 3
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Peru under Fire: Human Rights since the Return of Democracy 
compiled by Americas Watch.
Yale, 169 pp., £12.95, June 1992, 0 300 05237 5
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... Travelling in the Andean highlands of Peru some thirty years ago, Peter Matthiessen observed a group of drunken Quechua Indians. ‘In this state the Quechua looks more slack-jawed and brutish than the most primitive man imaginable.’ The Indians were ‘rife with hatreds and resentments ... But they are so subdued by their own poverty, and by their failure to realise how very numerous they are, that a Quechua revolution, while one day inevitable, remains remote ...

Collected Works

Angus Calder

5 January 1989
Men, Women and Work: Class, Gender and Protest in the New England Shoe Industry, 1780-1910 
by Mary Blewett.
Illinois, 444 pp., $29.95, July 1988, 0 252 01484 7
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Men’s Lives 
by Peter Matthiessen.
Collins Harvill, 335 pp., £15, August 1988, 0 00 272519 3
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On Work: Historical, Comparative and Theoretical Approaches 
edited by R.E. Pahl.
Blackwell, 752 pp., £39.95, July 1988, 9780631157625
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Slavery and Other Forms of Unfree Labour 
edited by Léonie Archer.
Routledge, 307 pp., £28, August 1988, 0 415 00203 6
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The Historical Meanings of Work 
edited by Patrick Joyce.
Cambridge, 320 pp., £27.50, September 1987, 0 521 30897 6
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Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland’s Century 1590-1710 
by David Stevenson.
Cambridge, 246 pp., £25, November 1988, 0 521 35326 2
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... seine fishermen of Long Island whose way of life was being extinguished in the mid-1980s, just as Peter Matthiessen was at work on his account of it? ‘These doggedly independent men,’ he tells us, ‘do not speak of themselves as “working”, far less “taking a job”.’ He quotes one of the younger generation: ‘Fishin wasn’t a job, it was ...

‘I’m English,’ I said

Christopher Tayler: Colin Thubron

14 July 2011
To a Mountain in Tibet 
by Colin Thubron.
Chatto, 227 pp., £16.99, February 2011, 978 0 7011 8379 0
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... journey through Tibet, for all its mountain fastness, to a descent into the underworld.’ Like Peter Matthiessen in The Snow Leopard, Thubron turns out to have gone to the Himalayas to grieve. When his guide Iswor asks the inevitable question – ‘And you? Why are you doing this, travelling alone?’ – he responds with a joke but tells the reader ...

Roaming the Greenwood

Colm Tóibín: A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition by Gregory Woods

21 January 1999
A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition 
by Gregory Woods.
Yale, 448 pp., £24.95, February 1998, 0 300 07201 5
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... didn’t Forster publish Maurice in 1914, when he wrote it? Why didn’t the American critic F.O. Matthiessen write a history of gay American writing? How come Lionel Trilling didn’t realise that Forster was gay? And why are gay lives presented as tragic in so much writing? Why can’t gay writers give gay men happy endings, as Jane Austen gave ...

Terror on the Vineyard

Terry Castle: Boss Ladies, Watch Out!

15 April 1999
A Likely Story: One Summer with Lillian Hellman 
by Rosemary Mahoney.
Doubleday, 273 pp., $23.95, November 1998, 9780385479318
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... stretched out naked on her bed upstairs during a bibulous evening with the Styrons, Nichols, Peter Matthiessen and the rest, Mahoney comments – with the bizarre know-nothingism of the amnesiac – that her ‘nipples were the size of Oreos’. This culminating image of the post-prandial, brown-nippled Hellman – comatose, alone, exposed and ...

Comedy is murder

Thomas Powers: Joseph Heller

8 March 2012
Just One Catch: The Passionate Life of Joseph Heller 
by Tracy Daugherty.
Robson, 548 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 1 84954 172 5
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Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller was Dad and Life was a Catch-22 
by Erica Heller.
Vintage, 272 pp., £8.99, October 2011, 978 0 09 957008 0
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... Puzo, Friedman, Brooks and the screenwriter David Zelag Goodman. Kurt Vonnegut began to show up. Peter Matthiessen was considered but rejected for mentioning too often his membership in the Institute of Arts and Letters. ‘It’s an organisation,’ Puzo said, ‘for guys who can’t get screen deals.’ Barring Vogel, the core members all got screen ...

I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters

24 January 2013
Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... Hellman, Mary McCarthy, Truman Capote, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Penn Warren, Peter Matthiessen, Philip Roth, Irwin Shaw and the always vivacious William Burroughs (‘He is an absolutely astonishing personage, with the grim mad face of Savonarola and a hideously tailored 1925 shit-coloured overcoat and scarf to match with a grey ...

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