Peter Matthiessen.

Peter Matthiessen has died. Now would be a great time to read this interview over at The Paris Review:


Can you say which writers have influenced your work?


A terrible confession—none. Try as I might to claim some creditable literary lineage, I find no trace that I can recognize in my writing. I don’t mean to claim that I am sui generis (though one could argue that all truthful writers are sui generis), nor that I came to work fully formed like a hen’s egg or a Buddha. Nor do I seek to be unique or even “different,” far less self-consciously “experimental.” In Far Tortuga, the innovations emerged from the writing process because old familiar novelistic forms simply weren’t working.

Many great writers inspired me, of course, but inspiration is not the same as a direct influence. I was often stirred by the beauty of great prose, the passion and startling intensity of hard-won truths, which leapt from that creative fire. I suppose I became a writer to search out my own thoughts (though I was unaware of that for years; I simply wrote). For the writer, therefore the reader, fresh truth is exhilarating, even painful truth, as in Kafka or Céline. Isn’t that what good writing finally arrives at? The insights and epigrams of Alexander Pope weren’t clichés when he wrote them, any more than those resounding lines in Shakespeare. They only became dog-eared from overuse.

He has a new novel out—coincidentally—as well. I still really need to read Shadow Country.