Peter Matthiessen, was born 22 May 1927, and died 5 April 2014
- I am a writer. A fiction writer who also writes non-fiction on behalf of social and environmental causes or journals about expeditions to wild places.
- By writing. I learned early that you can’t get there drunk or smoking dope or hanging about waiting for your muse. Starting each day is like priming the pump, in my experience; it’s plain hard labour, hunting the right way to express that thought that had seemed so penetrating, even beautiful, before you had to reduce it into words
- In fiction, you have a rough idea what’s coming up next – sometimes you even make a little outline – but in fact you don’t know. Each day is a whole new – and for me, a very invigorating – experience.
- I think in any writing you’re paying attention to detail.
- I’ve always thought that my real writing was the fiction, which seems odd, since I’ve done over twice as many non-fiction books as fiction books. Yet I really haven’t changed my view. Non-fiction usually involves research. One has to stick to the facts, piecing together a construction, it’s more like cabinet work or carpentry. Fiction is totally different, much more natural, more fun.
- But I have this idea that American writers, by and large, do weak work in their later years. I’d like to have the character to quit writing sooner rather than later.
- I’m a terrific rewriter. I polish and polish and polish and polish.
- If a book begins with some outside purpose or support system, it’s always a frail child.
- Non-fiction at its best is like fashioning a cabinet. It can be elegant and very beautiful but it can never be sculpture.
- Isn’t that the joy of fiction? To probe for fresh experience rather than perpetuate received wisdom?
Peter Matthiessen was an American novelist, naturalist, and wilderness writer. He was a co-founder of the The Paris Review and a three-time National Book Award winner. His novel, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, was adapted into the 1991 film of the same name.
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