Peter Matthiessen

Peter Matthiessen

Past Event: Tuesday, April 25, 2006

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

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Literary Arts

Sponsored by Hoffman Construction Company of Washington.

Named in 1974 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Peter Matthiessen is a naturalist, novelist, Zen priest, and living legend. He has published more than twenty books of fiction and nonfiction over fifty years. His masterly fiction includes At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1965), a moral thriller about missionaries in South America; and Killing Mister Watson(1991), the first in a trilogy about a legendary Florida outlaw. His nonfiction is equally ambitious. In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (1983) examines the 1975 shoot-out between the FBI and Native Americans near Wounded Knee. But it is Matthiessen’s travel writing that established him as a consummate advocate for the natural world. In The Snow Leopard(1978), winner of the National Book Award, he writes lyrically of seeking both endangered creatures and spiritual fulfillment. He recounts in crystalline prose his treks through Africa and Antarctica in African Silences (1991) and End of the Earth (2003), while The Birds of Heaven(2001) promotes the protection of majestic cranes and the planet’s ecosystem.

Matthiessen was born in New York, the son of an architect and conservationist. He published his first story while at Yale, and after graduation moved to France where he co-founded The Paris Review with his friend, the late George Plimpton. He lives in Sag Harbor, New York.

Excerpt from End of the Earth: Voyages to AntarcticaAhead, the pack is broken by big chunks and pressure ridges forced upward by conflicting floes. On a disk of new ice banked by ridges, two emperor penguins raise long beaks to cry out to the heavens in the penguin manner, a lament too faint to be heard over the ship’s passage through rough ice. Then, abruptly, the hull grinds to a stop, and the sudden stillness troubles the birds more than its noisy progress. One flops forward, sledding on its belly to the other, where it stands up again, reassured by penguin company. Its companion, more stalwart, remains impassive, light flashing from the golden wash on its ivory breast…

To westward, from an icy peak where the sun’s low fireball irradiates the glaciers, comes an astonishing silver light that illuminates the sea ice plain with rainbow crystals. How beautiful and treacherous are turning floes with their fine cracks, and all the more so in this wind, when without warning they may slide apart, revealing the mysterious black water.

Selected WorkEnd of the Earth (2003) Tigers in the Snow (2000)African Silences (1991)The Snow Leopard (1978) At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1965)

LinksPeter Matthiessen (New York) State WriterA Series of Tiny Astonishments (interview)Zen and the Art of Peter Matthiessen 

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, the largest event space at Benaroya Hall. 

Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5 via Westbound I-90
    Take the 2C exit for I-5 North. Follow signs for Madison Street/Convention Place and merge right onto Seventh Avenue. Turn left onto Madison Street. Proceed three blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue four blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)
Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. The event rate is $16.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. This option is present at every event at Benaroya Hall in our 2019/20 Season.

Assisted Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Benaroya Hall has an infrared hearing system, which transmits sound by light beams. Headsets are available in The Boeing Company Gallery coat check and the Head Usher stations in both lobbies.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals. To make a request for ASL interpretation, please contact us at or 206.621.2230×10. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at our venues, and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Guide and service dogs are also welcome. Among other features, Benaroya Hall has designated parking spaces adjacent to elevators in their parking garage. Elevators with Braille signage go to all levels within the Hall. A unisex restroom is also available. For more details on their accessibility features, click here.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive.  Our Patron Services Manager is available at, or Monday-Thursday from 10:00am – 5:00pm, and Fridays from 10:00am – 1:00pm, at 206.621.2230×10.