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Peter Matthiessen

I think in any writing you're paying attention to detail.

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In nonfiction, you have that limitation, that constraint, of telling the truth.

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I used to distinguish between my fiction and nonfiction in terms of superiority or inferiority.

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When I'm in the field, when I'm working, I keep very careful notes. I wear big shirts with big breast pockets, and I carry in them two little spiral notebooks.

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Here I am, safely returned over those peaks from a journey far more beautiful and strange than anything I had hoped for or imagined - how is it that this safe return brings such regret?

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In fiction, you have a rough idea what's coming up next - sometimes you even make a little outline - but in fact you don't know. Each day is a whole new - and for me, a very invigorating - experience.

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I was just very interested in the American frontier and the growth of capitalism - those enormous fortunes that were being made, more often than not, on the blood of poor people, black people, Indian people. They were the ones who paid very dearly for those great fortunes.

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The progress of the sciences toward theories of fundamental unity, cosmic symmetry (as in the unified field theory) — how do such theories differ, in the end, from that unity which Plato called “unspeakable” and “indiscribable,” the holistic knowledge shared by so many peoples of the earth, Christians included, before the advent of the industrial revolution made new barbarians of the peoples of the West? In the United States, before spiritualist foolishness at the end of the last century confused mysticism with “the occult” and tarnished both, William James wrote a master work of metaphysics; Emerson spoke of “the wise silence, the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related, the eternal One . . .”; Melville referred to “that profound silence, that only voice of God”; Walt Whitman celebrated the most ancient secret, that no God could be found “more divine than yourself.” And then, almost everywhere, a clear and subtle illumination that lent magnificence to life and peace to death was overwhelmed in the hard glare of technology. Yet that light is always present, like the stars of noon. Man must perceive it if he is to transcend his fear of meaningless, for no amount of “progress” can take its place.

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