Monday, July 21, 2014

More on Salter.

The early novel, A Sport and Pastime, seems flawless.  And like much afterwards in Salter's work.  I came into Salter through the letters with Robert Phelps and as I finished reading his memoir, Burning the Days, I wished Salter had had Phelps help him edit the book.  I will admit that it did give me me one thing I was looking for---a personal view on the whole of mid-century (20th) of our lives.  He is about twenty years older than me.  He can write passages of great beauty.  A romantic sensibility at work.  And yet a narrowness of vision and focus.  Maybe also a lack of depth and humor.  A day or so after finishing the book, I heard Leonard Cohen singing one of his classics on the Live in London album.  His spoken introduction is wonderful and funny.  He jokes about taking the full gamut of anti-depressants and says he has studied deeply in all the world's great religions.  "But cheerfulness kept breaking through."  Yeah, I thought.  Come on, James Salter, you say you want us to envy your life but you are never as funny or as charming or as deep, really, as Leonard Cohen.  "We are each of us an eventual tragedy." Salter says two pages from the end of his autobiography.  Well, ok, I see what you mean but, geez, put a bit more of a spin on it.  Shakespeare, Leonard Cohen, Beckett, even Bernhard, manage to do so.  

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