Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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Peter Matthiessen ’50

If Peter Matthiessen ’50 needs a set of bookends, he’s in luck: he now has a second National Book Award to go with the one he won in 1979. On November 19, Matthiessen won the prize for fiction for Shadow Country, a reworking of three of his previous historical novels centered around a 19th-century sugar cane farmer in Florida. His previous award was for the nonfiction book The Snow Leopard, a classic of nature writing that chronicled a trip to the Himalayas.

Matthiessen has said that he got into nonfiction writing nearly 50 years ago for “crassly commercial” reasons: he wasn’t making enough money writing fiction. “I’ve had a hard time over the years persuading people that fiction was my natural thing,” Matthiessen said on accepting his award. It seems as though he’s making progress.

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