by James Salter ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 22, 1987
Salter (A Sport and a Pastime, Light Years, etc.) here brings together 11 stories, mostly from The Paris Review, Grand Street, and Esquire, for his first collection of short fiction. In the clear light of day, Salter's usually privileged characters seek fame and fortune, pleasure and passion with often reckless abandon and naked ambition. By twilight, their real and apparent failures begin to loom. At dusk, in ""Twenty Minutes,"" a divorced woman thrown from her horse reviews her failed marriage in a collage of near-death images. Again at dusk, in ""Fields of Dusk,"" a lonely middle-aged woman is told by her improbable beau that he's returned to his wife. Late at night, though, madness takes over and in the strange and haunting ""Akhnilo,"" a Dartmouth-educated carpenter who ""thought of failure as romantic"" seems to find it psychologically devastating. The pursuit of success naturally concerns Salter's artists: there is the pathetic American writer in self-imposed exile in Basel, where he dedicates himself to obscure ideas (""The Destruction of the Goetheanum""); there is the ""minor writer,"" in the rather unfocused and unpleasant ""Via Negativa,"" who envies the material successes of his contemporaries; there is the ambitious and awe-struck scriptwriter in ""The Cinema,"" a kaleidoscopic narrative of the making of a film in Rome. ""Am Strande von Tanger,"" a narrative with Proustian pretensions, follows a self-satisfied artist of sorts in Barcelona who (at a cafe called ""Chez Swann"") encourages the flirtations of his lover's friend, the latter a woman not of his style. The least obvious failures here are the wealthy young lawyers of""American Express,"" whose soullessness is fully revealed by their sexual depravity. Echoes of Hemingway (""There is no sun. There is only a white silence. Sunday morning. The early mornings of Spain"") do little to enhance Salter's own spare style, or his reputation as a writer's writer. The gems here lose some of their luster in the dull company.
Pub Date: Feb. 22, 1987
Page Count: -
Publisher: North Point
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1987
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