Sunday, February 12, 2006

Farewell and Adieu to You, Too

[[O B I T]] * And while we’re on the subject of books, I was sorry to hear that American novelist Peter Benchley, who scared the dickens out of beachgoers with his 1974 novel, Jaws--subsequently made into a big-grossing movie by Steven Spielberg--died yesterday of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis at his home in Princeton, New Jersey. He was only 65 years old. The grandson of American humorist and actor Robert Benchley, Peter Benchley was born in New York City in 1940 and later graduated from Harvard University. In his time, he was a staffer at both The Washington Post and Newsweek, and even put in a couple of years as a speechwriter for President Lyndon B. Johnson.

While Benchley went on from Jaws to write nine other novels, a few of which (including The Deep and Peter Benchley’s Creature) were adapted for either television or the movies, none brought him the renown that Jaws had done. Which, according to the author’s wife of 41 years, Wendy, was fine with him. As the Associated Press reports, Benchley may have been more proud of his conservation work than he was of his prose. “He served on the national council of Environmental Defense, hosted numerous television wildlife programs, gave speeches around the world and wrote articles for National Geographic and other publications,” the AP explains. As Wendy Benchley relates, “He cared very much about sharks. He spent most of his life trying to explain to people that if you are in the ocean, you’re in the shark’s territory, so it behooves you to take precautions.”

The author couldn’t have made that any more clear than he did in Jaws. I, personally, went nowhere near an ocean for two years after reading the novel.

READ MORE:Peter Benchley: The Man Who Loved Sharks,” by Bryan Curtis (Slate).

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