On Peter Matthiessen
There is a review in today's New York Times Book Review* of Shadow Country: A New Rendering of the Watson Legend (The Modern Library, 2008) by Peter Matthiessen. The book is a collected (and somewhat condensed) retelling of Matthiessen's three novels about Florida's outlaw swamp baron Edgar J. Watson (Killing Mr. Watson, Lost Man's River and Bone by Bone).
I met Matthiessen in Key West one afternoon in the mid-1990's--it might have been '96 or '97. He was waiting to be seated at an outdoor bar/restaurant with the writers David James Duncan and Randy Wayne White. I recognized Duncan and Matthiessen--I think White was a little hurt that I did not recognize him, too--and invited them to join us at our table--it was just Marcia and me with several extra chairs.**
I had read my way through Matthiessen from his early novel Raditzer to Men's Lives, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, and Killing Mr. Watson, and had several of his books with me on that trip, though none with me at the bar when we met.
What was it like to meet one of my early literary heroes? It was an interesting afternoon. David James Duncan was--and is--a good man, Randy Wayne White regaled us with fishing stories, and I've never read another book by Peter Matthiessen.
*"A History of Violence: Peter Matthiessen revisits his fictional account of the brutal plantation owner Edgar J. Watson" by Tom LeClair, The New York Times Book Review, April 27, 2008, p. 19.
**Marcia has just reminded me that there was a woman with Matthiessen's group--one of the Hemingway cousins.