01112013: With Salter, but mostly Ford


Currently reading: Light Years by James Salter; and maybe A Christmas Bride and Christmas Beau by Mary Balogh, because goddammit, Sasha, it is January! Then again, I also brought Daphne du Maurier’s The Doll with me, so, um, yeah.

It’s odd when I’m suddenly not reading at least two books at once. Having finished Franzen and having set aside Proust for the meantime, the dreaded question arose: What do I possibly read next? And so: Taking the cue from Iris and Ana’s #LARMonth, I pulled James Salter from the shelves and began reading him on the train to work.

I’m about seventy pages in at the moment; already Light Years feels like a bitter reminder of the literary preoccupations I had in college: When I was much younger and, thus, had more promise—when I could write what I wanted to write, and I did it well, I believed so hard that I did it well. James Salter feels now like something I idolized then. [Something that I know needs more mulling over: I don’t know what my tastes are anymore. Whatever happened to my fanatical love for fiction of the Domestic?]

What elevates Light Years above its admittedly dour divinings about human beings and the fate of civilization, and makes it an immensely readable, luminous novel of greatness is Salter’s virtuosity practiced upon the novel’s formal features, and accomplished with a flair (hardly the word) for felicitous sentence-making and intelligence-delivered-to-the-page the likes of which there’s no one else writing today. – From Richard Ford’s cray-buckets introduction to Light Years.

Richard Ford’s beautiful and far-too-erudite introduction all but scared me away: The man makes such a hard sell for James Salter, for Light Years. I am telling you right now: Ford has some serious lit-boner for Salter. It makes me quite certain that I will never ever match this ardor for the novel I am about to read:

Light Years is full of ideas, strategies, cravings after belief that don’t work out well. The novel’s representative institutions, those hold-overs from another era and stand-ins for belief and ideas—the professions, matrimony, trust in history, travel, material accouterments—all turn into one or another fool’s paradise. And yet Light Years is a novel savingly, which derives moral strength from its own etiquettes—from form, structure, cadence, diction, imagery—and deems language itself, words used imaginatively, adequate to stand for a version of goodness.

[Did you get that, world? The way Salter wields the English language is “adequate to stand for a version of goodness.” Throw out fluffy widdle puppies and baby pandas, everybody: Salter’s prose is on the case.] But I’ve got to hand it to Ford, though: I have not, in recent memory, paid this much attention—an almost brittle, why-don’t you-go-ahead-and-impress-me kind of scrutiny —to the author’s prose.

Basically, I am slow in growing impressed at the language, and my heart remains cold to the story itself. [This is my peg.] I think Ford has hoarded all the love for Salter at this point. Then again, I am in a world where people tell their friends, “Robert, your daughter is fantastic. She has the heart of a courtesan.”

* * *

Last night, I’ve tore open the shrinkwrap from Mary Balogh’s A Christmas Bride and Christmas Beau (two-in-one reissue!). Mostly because we’re nearly halfway through January here. I’ve never turned to a Christmas-special romance (does Downton Abbey count?) consciously, because Christmas tends to be this hokey third character in the romance and it’s all so schmaltzy and goddamn the mistletoe tropes—but this is Mary Balogh. I devoured her reissues in 2012; there’s just a grace to backlist-Balogh I rarely see in a contemporary romance novel writer. So, we’ll see how this goes.

Also: As I write this, I’m stranded in a coffee shop, trying to hide my fear of gloomy weather. Daphne du Maurier’s The Doll is in my messenger bag. Because I’m that anxious nut who spends fifteen minutes every day before leaving for anything, trying to figure out what book to bring with her, choices that will inevitably lay unread by the end of the day. Better to have achey shoulders than no reading, is what I always say.

Hah. Now I’m suddenly at the cusp of reading four books simultaneously.

6 thoughts on “01112013: With Salter, but mostly Ford

    1. I think so, too. It’s kind of sad, that one platform for discussion is slowly being weaned–then again, Twitter is more fast-paced, so there’s a livelier discourse?

      1. What happens is that the old tug of war can’t function on twitter. All the I said, you said crap that continues the endless games of ping pong. It doesn’t happen here and that’s makes it such a heaven here, but on twitter you get such a variety and it is possible to use it for as many things as you are capable of imagining. It is an amazing platform.


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