By ALLISON AMEND
I was 27 or 28, working on my first novel. When the Matthiessens offered me their house in Sagaponack in exchange for watching their cats for a month, I leapt at the chance. I knew Peter’s wife, Maria, a beautiful Judi Dench lookalike, but I had never met Peter when I arrived there. I knew who he was, of course, but hadn’t ever read his work. We met only briefly before they went off to the airport and I was alone with the cats.
I was hoping for solitude and space. But I was also hoping that I could crack the writing code. Was it possible that the same surroundings that he found so conducive to genius would work their magic on me? Perhaps this was the month I would make a breakthrough in my interminable novel. I read all of Peter’s work while in his house, as though method acting, sitting among his things, looking at his photographs, eating in his kitchen, walking in his (well, Maria’s) garden.