“I had scarcely begun when I realized that what I had here at the very least was the Great American Novel. I sent off the first 150 pages to [agent Bernice Baumgarten] and hung around the post office for the next two weeks. At last an answer came. It read as follows: ‘Dear Peter, James Fenimore Cooper wrote this 150 years ago, only he wrote it better, Yours, Bernice.’ On a later occasion, when as a courtesy I sent her the commission on a short story sold in England, she responded unforgettably: ‘Dear Peter, I’m awfully glad you were able to get rid of this story in Europe, as I don’t think we’d have had much luck with it here. Yours, Bernice.’ Both these communications, quoted in their entirety, are burned into my brain forever—doubtless a salutary experience for a brash young writer. I never heard an encouraging word until the day Bernice retired, when she called me in and barked like a Zen master, ‘I’ve been tough on you because you’re very, very good.’ I wanted to sink down and embrace her knees.”
Peter Matthiessen, on his first novel.

“I had scarcely begun when I realized that what I had here at the very least was the Great American Novel. I sent off the first 150 pages to [agent Bernice Baumgarten] and hung around the post office for the next two weeks. At last an answer came. It read as follows: ‘Dear Peter, James Fenimore Cooper wrote this 150 years ago, only he wrote it better, Yours, Bernice.’ On a later occasion, when as a courtesy I sent her the commission on a short story sold in England, she responded unforgettably: ‘Dear Peter, I’m awfully glad you were able to get rid of this story in Europe, as I don’t think we’d have had much luck with it here. Yours, Bernice.’ Both these communications, quoted in their entirety, are burned into my brain forever—doubtless a salutary experience for a brash young writer. I never heard an encouraging word until the day Bernice retired, when she called me in and barked like a Zen master, ‘I’ve been tough on you because you’re very, very good.’ I wanted to sink down and embrace her knees.”

Peter Matthiessen, on his first novel.

RIP our co-founder and longtime friend Peter Matthiessen. We are honored to have known him and will miss him dearly. 
Read his Art of Fiction interview.
Read his story “A Replacement.”
Listen to Matthiessen on the art of travel writing.
Pictured: Matthiessen with Paris Review co-founders William Styron, Tom Guinzburg, and George Plimpton.

RIP our co-founder and longtime friend Peter Matthiessen. We are honored to have known him and will miss him dearly. 

Read his Art of Fiction interview.

Read his story “A Replacement.”

Listen to Matthiessen on the art of travel writing.

Pictured: Matthiessen with Paris Review co-founders William Styron, Tom Guinzburg, and George Plimpton.