Saturday, June 27, 2015

My hero / James Salter by Rupert Thomson

James Salter

My hero: 

James Salter by Rupert Thomson

Salter’s gift as a writer was his way of conveying the ecstasy and transience of life in language that was simple and crystalline

Rupert Thomson
The Guardian, Saturday 27 June 2015 11.00 BST

When I met James Salter in London in the spring of 2013 I was struck by the way he walked. Though he was 87, there was the ghost of a swagger as he crossed the hotel lobby, and I had an immediate and vivid sense of him as a younger man – the pilot he once famously was, strolling across the runway to his F-86 fighter jet.
Though he acknowledged that flying was probably the great adventure of his life, he always longed to write, and while stationed in Germany in the early 1950s he happened to pick up a copy of Under Milk Wood. The language took his breath away, and he knew then that it was in him to make something “sacred and beautiful”. At the age of 32, he resigned his commission. He would “write or perish”. In his memoir, Burning the Days, he states that “a part of one’s never completed mosaic … is found abroad”, and his early novels – The Hunters, Solo Faces, and A Sport and a Pastime – reflect that belief. Perhaps because his subjects encompass war, sport and sex, he has sometimes been referred to as a macho writer, but he consistently demonstrated the ability to create believable women, an ability most evident in his 1975 masterpiece, Light Years, which paints a portrait of Viri and Nedra Berland and their gilded but ultimately doomed marriage.
It is the core of Salter’s gift, his way of conveying the ecstasy and transience of life in language that is simple, pure and crystalline, and yet he never reached a wide audience – at least, not until his last years. At the end of our meeting, I asked Salter what he felt about fame. He compared it to a white linen suit. “You’d give anything in the world to have it,” he told me, “and then somebody buys it for you and you don’t wear it very much.” It’s gratifying that after decades of longing and disappointment Salter was able finally to put on that white linen suit.





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002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm


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018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
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041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
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043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
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051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
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053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

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097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
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