James Salter was one of my favorite writers. I’ve read most of his novels, both collections of short stories and his excellent memoir Burning the Days and would gladly revisit any of them again (with the exception of his most recent All That Is). Not only was he a craftsman of beautifully simple sentences but his writing also contained a great deal of truth. He was interested in the way people lived and used a well-trained eye to examine his own life and those of others he encountered to look honestly at the burst of youth and inevitability of experience, the fine line between success and failure, profound joy and deep sadness – all in equal measure. Unlike so many of today’s writers, he wasn’t afraid of sex. His episodes were erotic and revealing, their descriptions gave you an impression of what happened physically but also provided valuable insight about the characters involved. If pressed I’d have to say his masterpiece A Sport and A Pastime, the first book of his I read, is my favorite but given the brilliance contained in his novels Light Years and Solo Faces I could be convinced to pick any of the three. He’s an author you read as a young writer for inspiration and go back to years later to admire his wisdom and rare gift with words. He was 90 years old so his passing is no great tragedy but it is a good reminder that great books live forever and inspiration to return to your old favorites once in awhile instead of always chasing what’s next when it comes to reading time that used to be infinite and now is at a premium and has to be treated that way.


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