If you haven't read the nonfiction works of Peter Matthiessen, or you merely yearn for a one-volume greatest hits album, a new book offers the ideal sampler buffet. The Peter Matthiessen Reader: A Selection of Nonfiction, the latest in Vintage's ongoing series of handsome trade paperback series of Readers, features excerpts from every nonfiction book by Matthiessen in the period covered. From Wildlife in America to Sal Si Puedes: Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution, from The Tree Where Man Was Born to In the Spirit of Crazy Horse the breadth is astonishing. With an artistry denied to most naturalists and an expertise few literary writers ever attain, Matthiessen easily earns his place in the pantheon of great nature writers. In a thoughtful introduction, the editor, McKay Jenkins, places Matthiessen's work in the context of his life. The subsequent selections prove that Matthiessen is eagerly sometimes urgently trying to articulate the lives of the less articulate, whether animal or human. This broad sampling of his work reminds us that Matthiessen's nature writing is motivated by the same curiosity, compassion, and love of life as his fiction. Like Thoreau, he is eager to report the glory of the universe.

comments powered by Disqus