Posts tagged james salter
“Modern usage has loosened up”

I'll say! Grammar lessons from the Comma Queen in the Rockaways:

p.s., unrelated: The Comma Queen (Mary Norris) tells a story in her book Between You and Me about writing a letter to James Salter (my James Salter!) querying four suspicious comma instances in Light Years (my Light Years!), to which he responded:

"I sometimes ignore the rules about commas although generally I follow convention and adhere to the advice in Strunk and White. Punctuation is for clarity and also emphasis, but I also feel that, if the writing warrants it, punctuation can contribute to the music and rhythm of the sentences. You don't get permission for this, of course; you take the liberty."
On James Salter

From a 2009 interview at

When I asked him about his detached narrative style he responded, "I have never written a book in the first person that I can think of and I think that is a rich field of opportunity for writers. Philip Roth is an example; it is too late for me to start. It is not that I can't do it, I never felt impelled to do it. Speaking of it as a gauge of temperament, I suppose I tend towards the cool side and perhaps my writing tends to the cool side as well. I do not mean anything judgmental by that. I think the writing is tempered with not what I call a pitiless eye, but an eye that is not clouded with sentiment."

From Light Years:

There is no happiness like this happiness: quiet mornings, light from the river, the weekend ahead. They lived a Russian life, a rich life, interwoven, in which the misfortune of one, a failure, illness, would stagger them all. It was like a garment, this life. Its beauty was outside, its warmth within.

From Burning the Days:

I like men who have known the best and the worst, whose life has been anything but a smooth trip. Storms have battered them, they have lain, sometimes for months on end, becalmed. There is a residue even if they fail. It has not all been tinkling; there have been grand chords.

From The Paris Review:

To write? Because all this is going to vanish. The only thing left will be the prose and poems, the books, what is written down. Man was very fortunate to have invented the book. Without it the past would completely vanish, and we would be left with nothing, we would be naked on earth.

Cool, unsentimental, detached, removed, reserved: adore. I adored him. He was, and is, my favorite Voice of Men.

+ James Salter dies at 90

Books as cultural signifiers
Last week, a woman came into the bookstore to get a copy of "A Sport and a Pastime" by James Salter. She said she always gives it as a gift to people she's getting to know. Those who love the novel as much as she does become her friends for life.

This is Edan Lepucki at The Millions on giving books as gifts: "For many of us, books are cultural signifiers: if you like this, you will like that, and I will like you. A book serves as an aesthetic litmus test, a conversation starter, a way to understand one another through a third party."

I used to give Bel Canto as a gift, then for a while it was The Stone Diariesbut those weren't compatibility tests or anything. They were merely awesome gifts! Though by virtue of the fact that they were awesome gifts I personally loved, they were obviously charged with friendship-tending significance. Lepucki again:

Reading is both a public and private act. It's private in the sense that no amount of discourse can mirror or capture the intimate experience a reader has with a book and its author. But that discourse is precisely why it's public—the blog posts, the reviews, the conversations over coffee, all of that affects and informs your reading experience. When you give someone a book you love, you're inviting them to understand a private encounter you had with a text. It's the fusing of the public and the private, the social and the intimate.

James Salter I'm keeping for myself, you greedy bastards.

James Salter in Paris

I realized while I was there that James Salter formed a lot of my notions of Paris when I read his memoir years ago. He describes it in tones both possessive and personal, a place that's all burnished glow streaked with cigarette smoke, grand because it's faded down in that way that makes everyone & everything sad and gorgeous:

I loved you very much. I might say that of Paris; my memories are heaped there. Somehow I was constantly returning—the train gliding through the endless suburbs or in blue air the airplane banking as, face close to the window, I looked down. Far below the fabled city unifies itself, which it will not do when you are within it. The tangled, irregular streets create a kind of anatomy. A city which since Gothic times, as the poet says, has been ever increasing in deformity, and withal retaining more perfection than any other of its class.