Peter Matthiessen, novelist, naturalist, and Paris Review co-founder, died April 5, 2014 at his Sagapanock home, reports the New York Times. He was 86 years old. The book that Matthiessen had been calling his last, In Paradise is due to publish on Tuesday. The prize-winning writer succumbed to leukemia, according to his son, Alex, reported the New York Times. Matthiessen was the last living founder of The Paris Review.
Matthiessen was a two-time winner of the National Book Award and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1974. Writing both non-fiction and fiction, Matthiessen published over 30 books. They include Under the Mountain Wall (1962), Far Tortuga (1988), At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991), In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (1992), The Snow Leopard (2008) and Shadow Country (2008). The Cloud Forest (1961) was the first of six of his books to be serialized in The New Yorker. Sal Si Puedes (Escape If You Can) (1967) was re-released last month in paperback and with a new foreword by Marc Grossman.
Men's Lives: The Surfman and the Bayman of the South Fork (1986) was based on experiences of commercial fisherman in the Hamptons. Matthiessen also spent time working the waters as a commercial fisherman or deep sea captain, shortly after moving to Sagaponack. Many of his novels channeled his personal experiences or sprung from his non-fiction writing. Playwright Joe Pintauro of Sag Harbor used Matthiessen's book as muse for his play "Men's Lives" which debuted at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, NY in 1992. The play was restaged in 2012 at Bay Street.
Matthiessen was a literary fixture in the Hamptons. He moved to Sagaponack in 1958 and continued to live there throughout his life. His home became a gathering spot for literary types and artists, including Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, and later, those practicing Zen Buddhism. Matthiessen was also part of a handful of authors who helped launch of the Southampton Writers Conference at Southampton College. He joined as one of the original lineup of professors offering classes when the college launched its MFA in Writing in 1997.
Matthiessen also participated in Hampton’s author readings and literary events, including Hampton's Library's Fridays at Five author-reading series held in Bridgehampton, NY. He also participated in the Writers Book Fair and Art Preview held at the Elaine Benson Gallery or Southampton College. The annual book signing event was held from 1977 until around 2003.
Peter Matthiessen was born on May 22, 1927 in New York City to Erard A. Matthiessen, an architect and conservationist, and the former Elizabeth Carey. He grew up with his brother and sister on Fifth Avenue, living in the same building as George Plimpton, according to the New York Times. He graduated from Yale in 1950 and moved to Paris in 1951. There, he finished his first novel, Race Rock, and co-founded The Paris Review. Matthiessen returned to the states and moved to Sagaponack on the East End of Long Island in 1958.
He is survived by a son Lukas and a daughter, Sara Carey, from his first marriage to Patsy Southgate; a daughter, Rue, and a son, Alex, from his second marriage to Deborah Love; two stepdaughters, Antonia and Sarah Koenig; and six grandchildren, according to the New York Times.
Details on services have not been released.
RELATED: "Peter Matthiessen, Lyrical Writer and Naturalist, Is Dead at 86" by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt for The New York Times. Published April 5, 2014.
"In Memoriam: Peter Matthiessen 1927 - 2014" by The Paris Review. Published April 5, 2014.
"Interviews: Peter Matthiessen, The Art of Fiction No. 157". Interviewed by Howard Norman for The Paris Review.
"Jill Krementz Photo Journal - Peter Matthiessen". Published by New York Social Diary.