Posts Tagged ‘James Salter’
October 23, 2015 | by Kathleen Alcott
At the table with James Salter.
“To revisit the past was like constantly crossing some Bergschrund,” James Salter writes in the introduction to his 1997 memoir, “a deep chasm between what my life had been before I changed it completely and what it was afterwards.” As it did through his life, an ineludible divide runs through Salter’s work. The same man who gave us great novels and stories of sport, of war and deprivation, produced some of the twentieth century’s most sumptuous meditations on domestic life, on the rituals at the heart of bonding. To read him in both modes is to pace the fullness of Salter’s emotional life—it is akin to entering a room full of people after completing some feat of endurance, a vow of silence or a rigorous fast, and trying to hear every word. What unites Salter’s oeuvre—more than his triumphs of style, the peculiar manipulations of perspective, and the verbless descriptive clauses—is his preoccupation with meals and all that they represent, all they can give and all they can take away.
In 1957, with his first book already published, Salter left the Air Force to become the novelist that he knew he was. As his identity was transformed—from fighter pilot to fiction writer, from that of struggle within the military complex to the isolation he encountered outside of it—so were his novels and stories. Food’s role in them increasingly became a metric for the emotional lives of his characters, who were either driven by the rejection of home or by some elaborate performance that kept the idea of home intact. The dinner table, Salter understood, was the perfect stage for the frailty of our relationships—how we present ourselves to others, how crucial to our sense of self are the recollections of the friends who saw us become the people we were. A much-cited quotation from Light Years perhaps most perfectly encapsulates his feelings about life in the air as a pilot and on the ground as a family man: “Life is weather. Life is meals.” Read More »
September 14, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
We were saddened to learn that Bill Becker, a longtime friend of The Paris Review, died this weekend at eighty-eight. As today’s obituary in the New York Times explains, Bill was “a theater critic and financier who acquired Janus Films with a partner in 1965, expanded its catalog of art-house and Hollywood classics and broadened their distribution to university audiences and home viewers.” A cineaste and a shrewd businessman, he was instrumental in bringing works by Renoir, Fellini, Bergman, Antonioni, Truffaut, and dozens of other filmmakers to new American audiences, a legacy his son Peter carries on as president of the Criterion Collection.
We knew Bill as a familiar face at our annual Spring Revel, and a generous, loyal benefactor. A close friend of George Plimpton’s, he was quick to champion the writers he admired—James Salter credited him with bringing A Sport and a Pastime to Plimpton’s attention. After George died, Mr. Becker continued to support the Review under each of its new editors. We join his colleagues at Janus Films and the Criterion Collection in offering our condolences and our gratitude.
September 1, 2015 | by The Paris Review
I like the idea of writing a poem I could have written thirty years ago. I’m the factory. My writing fears manifest more on the order of my inability to stop being Eileen Myles. I guess I don’t worry about my poems so much. I worry about me.
Myles also shares a few of her favorite artworks in our portfolio.
And our managing editor Nicole Rudick discusses the Art of Fiction with Jane Smiley:
One of the things I love about novels is that, in addition to offering good stories and having ideas about how the world works, they’re also artifacts about the details of the time in which the author lived … I would imagine somebody in a hundred years reading one of my novels and going, Are you shitting me? The shingles were going the wrong direction? Or, What are shingles?
There’s also one of James Salter’s final lectures; new fiction from Ottessa Moshfegh, Patrick Dacey, and Deborah Eisenberg; the second installment of Chris Bachelder’s novel The Throwback Special, with illustrations by Jason Novak; poems by Ange Mlinko, Eileen Myles, Michael Hofmann, Stephen Dunn, Kevin Prufer, Geoffrey G. O’Brien, Nathaniel Mackey, and Linda Pastan; and an essay by Robert Anthony Siegel.
July 24, 2015 | by The Paris Review
A memorial service for James Salter will be held at five P.M. on Tuesday, July 28, at the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York. All members of the public are welcome to attend.
Salter, who died last month, was a longtime member of the Paris Review family. His first published short story, “Sundays,” appeared in The Paris Review no. 38, and he followed with four others (“Am Strande von Tanger,” “Via Negativa,” “The Cinema,” and “Bangkok”); his third novel, A Sport and a Pastime, was published by Paris Review Editions in 1967; his Art of Fiction interview appeared in the magazine in 1993; and he won the Hadada Prize, The Paris Review’s lifetime-achievement award, in 2011—where he announced to the admiring crowd, “This is my Stockholm.”
Jim will be missed by all of us at the Review and by his many Paris Review colleagues from years past. We hope you’ll join us—and his family and many friends—in celebrating his life at his memorial on Tuesday.
July 13, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- In postwar America, magazines like Esquire and Playboy helped to shape our concept of the bachelor: an unfettered man, a man in complete control of his life, a man who helped to preserve conventional masculinity even as he fretted over his appearance and his home decor. Bachelorhood became the paragon of manly existence—even though most of Esquire’s readers were married. “Because Esquire relied on corporate advertising to continue existing, overthrowing corporate hierarchy and stratification didn’t factor into their discussions of masculine rejuvenation … women were presented as an obstacle to men’s success at entertaining, which reinforced the theory that women were ultimately responsible for men’s inability to control their lives.”
- People love to hate the Middle Ages—such benighted centuries, those were, full of blood and swine and religious drudgery! Well, people are fools: the medieval era was every bit as culturally rich as any other. They gave us “castles, cathedrals, Italian and Flemish and Byzantine art, printing, plainsong, and parliaments, not to mention universities. Yet the black propaganda of Voltaire, Hume, Kant, and Mark Twain remains suspended in the air like soot in the old factory towns, while intellectuals crow over the birth of ‘modernity’ like fancied fighting cocks.”
- James Salter had been corresponding with Sally Gall for more than a year, working toward an extended interview—the final edits were en route to him when he died a few weeks ago, and now the transcript has a new resonance. “Style is really more than a particular voice or way of writing,” Salter says. “It presents an entire subjectivity. In a sense, it determines what can be written … Style is the writer.”
- One of America’s earliest literary hits was Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Henry Dana Jr.’s 1840 chronicle of his transformative stint as a sailor onboard the Pilgrim. The memoir left a deep mark on Melville, who called it “unmatchable”; today it’s remembered as “a model of reportage, rife with the nautical jargon of a specialist and an anthropologist’s descriptive mastery of life aboard ship and in the Pilgrim’s then-exotic ports of call.”
- What’s the role of handwriting in the age of the touch screen? “Handwriting is profoundly bodily. Like an exaggerated, intensified version of the sweeps and swipes we use on a tablet, writing by pen can make muscles ache. Write while crying and one’s hand becomes shaky, write with excitement and watch the swirls and loops of one’s arcs become wild—an inky neurochemical expression that type just can’t replicate or capture.”
June 29, 2015 | by Kate Petersen
We’re concluding our week of James Salter remembrances with this interview by Kate Peterson from 2010. She recalls the experience fondly:
Among writers, James Salter was my first hero. Maybe it’s outmoded in 2015 to call someone your hero, but then, if any recent American writer took the idea of heroism seriously, it was Salter. I found his story collection Last Night ten years ago on my own, by chance—no friend or teacher had recommended it, and no social media list of must-reads existed then, at least on my radar. As discoveries go, it was a deliciously private one. The authority of his sentences and paragraphs came from their music, but not only from that. His descriptions seemed to draw power from what had been relinquished. I was dazzled, puzzled. Discipleship is fueled, in part, by mystery; at least mine was.
We met for this interview at the University of Minnesota in October 2010. I turned on my tape recorder and flipped to a fresh sheet of notebook paper, but before I could ask my first question, Salter asked one of his own: Bob Dylan had played near here, hadn’t he? I said he had. Did I know his songs? Not well, I admitted. He asked, could I sing any? Though I crossed Fourth Street every day, I confessed I couldn’t; I had been raised on show tunes. Like Rodgers and Hammerstein? Yes, I said. And so, before I knew what was happening, I was singing James Salter a few bars of “Oklahoma.”
That evening, Salter read from what became All That Is, his last novel. Then the working title was To Live It Again. It’s a promise at once retrospective and infinitive, and one, Salter often argued, that only books could honor.
To learn more about Salter, read his 1993 Art of Fiction interview or one of his stories from the magazine: “Sundays” (1966), “Am Strande von Tanger” (1968), “Via Negativa” (1972), and “Bangkok” (2003) are available in full online.
Tell me about your new novel.
I’ve been working on it for some years. I’d had the idea for a long time, but I was unconsciously waiting for a line from Christopher Hitchens. He wrote somewhere that “No life is complete that has not known poverty, love, and war.” That struck me, and I began with that.
I haven’t followed it through. Poverty doesn’t play much of a part. Betrayal does, and it’s a book that has a little more plot than other books of mine. It’s about an editor, a book editor, it’s the story of his life. Read More »