Friday, July 10, 2015

James Salter in The Times and Elsewhere

James Salter
James Salter in The Times and Elsewhere


By JOHN WILLIAMS 
JUNE 19, 2015 7:00 PM

James Salter, the novelist whose careful prose style made him a favorite among fellow authors, died on Friday in Sag Harbor, N.Y., at 90.
Mr. Salter is still best known for his short 1967 novel “A Sport and a Pastime,” about an intense love affair in provincial France. In The Times in 1985, Reynolds Price wrote, “In its peculiar compound of lucid surface and dark interior, it’s as nearly perfect as any American fiction I know.” In 2013, in an interview in The Financial Times, the novelist Jonathan Dee called it “a great literary novel but also the most erotic book ever written.”
The Times critic Anatole Broyard described the prose in “A Sport and Pastime” as “brilliant,” and added: “It is almost unbelievable what he can do with a few pigeons — just pigeons — rising or settling to the ground. He writes short sentences that are like caresses.” This praise, though, appeared in a 1975 review of “Light Years,” which Broyard said marked a “degeneration” of Mr. Salter’s style, including what he judged an over-reliance on the word “light”: “The author glues the novel together with it, using it as a structural constant or point of reference in the aimless movement of the characters.”
In an interview published in The Paris Review in 1993, Mr. Salter said: “I’m a frotteur, someone who likes to rub words in his hand, to turn them around and feel them, to wonder if that really is the best word possible. Does that word in this sentence have any electric potential? Does it do anything? Too much electricity will make your reader’s hair frizzy. There’s a question of pacing.”
By 1997, reviewing Mr. Salter’s memoir “Burning the Days,” Richard Bernstein could write that it had “become almost a banality among the literati to describe Mr. Salter as the most underrated of American writers.” As recently as 2013, in his long profile of Mr. Salter for The New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten wrote, “Most people seem not to know about him, and many who do find his work precious, arty, mandarin.”
But Mr. Salter’s visibility increased over the past decade as a new generation of readers championed his novels, and in 2013 he published “All That Is,” his first novel in nearly 35 years. In The New York Times Book Review, Malcolm Jones called it a book “that manages to be both recognizable (no one but Salter could have written it) and yet strikingly original, vigorous proof that this literary lion is still very much on the prowl.”
During an event at the 92nd Street Y in 2013, Richard Ford asked Mr. Salter, who had just received two sustained ovations from the large crowd, “So I guess the whole ‘writer’s writer’ thing is over now?”
“I hope so,” Mr. Salter replied.
Reviews of Mr. Salter’s work in The Times:
“Light Years” (Books of The Times)
“Light Years” (Book Review)
“Solo Faces” (Books of The Times)
“Dusk and Other Stories” (Book Review)
“Burning the Days” (Books of The Times)
“Last Night” (Book Review)
“All That Is” (Book Review)
Coverage elsewhere:
“The Glory of Certain Moments in Life” (The New York Review of Books)
“The Last Book” (The New Yorker)
The Paris Review interview

THE NEW YORK TIMES


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