James Salter (1925–2015) wrote about food and about sex—and sometimes about the combination of the two—in short, elegant sentences. In Salter’s hands, the topics weren’t just transient pleasures but the stuff of life. “Life is weather. Life is meals,” he writes in the book Light Years, and he later took the phrase as the title of a nonfiction book about food. It was his life’s work to evoke his characters’ fleeting moments, the picnic lunches and afternoons in bed, to assign meaning to them as they flooded by, and also to mourn the gaps between what can be lived and what can be recorded, contemplated, captured. All of this is another way of saying that James Salter was an intense guy who liked a good dinner party.
More on that intensity: Salter was a fighter pilot in the Korean War, an experience that became the foundation of his first novel, The Hunters. He gave up a bright future in the military in order to become a writer, eventually scaling the heights of literary New York. On the side, he became a successful Hollywood screenwriter. He had four children from a first marriage and, in later years, living with a second wife in Long Island, New York, scooped up many prizes, including a PEN/Faulkner Award, a PEN/Malamud Award and The Paris Review’s 2011 Hadada Award for lifetime achievement. Read More