Peter Matthiessen, one of the greatest American writers of his generation and a longtime hero to Phillipe and Jorge, passed away on April 5. His passing came just before the release of his latest (and last) novel, In Paradise.
Born into a wealthy family, Matthiessen all but ran from his elite upbringing. And what a run he had. He was a charter boat fishing captain, a CIA agent, a co-founder of The Paris Review (with George Plimpton, among others), a worldwide explorer, and a Zen Buddhist priest — you know, just a normal guy. He was also a staunch environmentalist, a friend of Cesar Chavez, and a supporter of Native American activist Leonard Peltier, via his book, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.
Perhaps his biggest accomplishment (although not to his mind) was winning National Book Awards for both nonfiction (The Snow Leopard) and fiction (Shadow Country). He also rightly won huge praise for the novel At Play In the Fields of the Lord, which comes highly recommended by P&J.
But to our minds, his work of true genius was Far Tortuga. After P&J first read it in the mid-1970s, we pushed it on every one of our friends, demanding they read it, and RIGHT NOW. A ragged copy has been on our bookshelf for decades, because it’s simply one of the best novels ever written, despite the tight-assed detractors who couldn’t swallow all of Matthiessen’s literary innovations. Eff ’em if they can’t take a joke.
So go to your local library or hop on Amazon and get yourself a copy of Far Tortuga. We guarantee it’ll be the starting point for a few years of reading everything Matthiessen wrote — a considerable and awesome body of work.
Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
And it shows them pearly white
Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe
And he keeps it out of sight
You know when that shark bites with his teeth, babe
Scarlet billows start to spread
_“Mack the Knife”
It looks like Newport is going to need a bigger events boat this summer.
On March 26, the Newport City Council gave the OK for the 28th Annual Monster Shark Tournament, which should guarantee a Jaws-themed circus to rival St. Patrick’s Day — or Ted “Captain Outrageous” Turner winning the America’s Cup in Newport — for the amount of alcohol consumed on the waterfront streets of the city.
The tourney organizers opted this year to leave their longtime home site in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard (the town featured prominently in Jaws as the fictional summer resort town of Amity). But having the shark tournament make Newport its new home drew the same reaction from some city councilors as when Quint drew his fingernails across a blackboard to get the town’s leaders’ attention.
From the sound of it, the Monster
Shark extravaganza was told to hit the road by Oak Bluffs town fathers. And Oak Bluffs police have already supplied what one Newport councilor called “adverse” information to our local gendarmes. Read: scores of what another councilor called “yahoos” getting oiled up and running amok.