Friday, February 8, 2008

At Play In the Fields of the Lord

Peter Matthiessen is the man. He has explored the world and written several excellent books of both fiction and non-fiction. I first discovered his work with the masterpiece "Snow Leopard". Since then I have read many of his books on a range of topics: Siberian Tigers, Leonard Peltier, Antartica, and the colonization of the Everglades. Each of his works have opened up new worlds of thought for me. So I was pretty stoked to read his early fiction "At Play in the Fields of the Lord".

It was a pretty good book that explored spirituality through an interesting story. I kept turning the pages in the familiar "reader's rush" to find out what happened next. At the end, however, I wasn't moved. I think there are two primary reasons for this: One, Matthiessen wrote many pages in either dream or drug sequences and I hate that shit. I recognize that spirituality requires a more poetic literary form, but these gimmicks are just annoying to read. Two, the characters were ultimately too one-dimensional. Matthiessen's bias against Western values resulted in cliches of American stupidity and "noble savage" indulgence.

I recommend this book for Matthiessen fans, but not for the general reader of fiction.

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