james salter



“Billy” fucked the love of my life. [1] I had known Billy for a longer time than I had known the love of my life, and that still holds true from an objective standpoint where time is universal. I knew him to be the person I was not expecting to be friends with today, not because he fucked her–because I was actually not expecting that at all–but because our friendship was extremely mild. [2]  There were also haphazard and unrelated–as they pertain to each of us as friends–shared chronotopical coordinates. We happened to be at some of the same places at a lot of the same times: the concert where I met the girl I dated before I met the love of my life, the liberal arts institution in the Midwest we both attended and, finally, New York.

Understanding how memory is determined by the chronotope has always been an arduous battle between logic and emotion, because time becomes connected to the space the memory is produced in and the intensity of the experience held in each memory shapes one’s perception of time. Time may appear to no longer be measured by any watch or clock, but by the strength of one’s emotions. Space is also prone to personal subjectivity, as past memories tend to engender feelings of the past, arguments fought and wet kisses shared.

To construct an understandable narrative, the creator must give in to the limitation of linearity, regardless of how convoluted the structure of the linearity becomes. [3] As a producer of memories who also chronicles them in prose, I have often manipulated myself for days until I surrender to an objective need to stop giving in to my desire for the (re)production of an intense memory.

Last time I saw Billy we met at the Highline, [4] which is always awful and never ceases to surprise with how awful it will be over and over again. Time definitely stops forever at the Highline and the space becomes a mini-simulacrum of all that is hell: enthusiastic teenagers, people who like to document their everything for antisocial media and runners who run for fun. No wonder Billy had a freakout and cried, even if the space actually had nothing to do with it. [5]

This time I was meeting Billy at a Vietnamese place in Chinatown called PHO-BANG. I go there a lot, because the wait-staff is extremely rude, but also because I like their pho and it is definitely enough for two meals, or even sometimes all the meals of a day if you get the large size with the beef chunks.  My favorite detail about the kitschy exotic ambiance is the clock that is next to the counter, a clock that ticks but has stopped forever. On the clock there is a visual of the Twin Towers, a space that real time has made a non-space. I find that definitely inappropriate, but maybe I am silly to think that, especially after really loving the Tom Junod article in Esquire that beautifully conveyed the tragedy of imagery recounting the 9/11 tragedy. [6]



Events & Random / 4 Comments
August 2nd, 2013 / 12:01 pm

Seriously, Though… Some Thoughts on Writers Who Take Themselves Seriously

In an interview with The Paris Review, the whole of which is worth reading, James Salter discussed his writing process and how he thinks through his writing at the language level. He 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. You want short sentences and long sentences—well, every writer knows that. You have to develop a certain ease of delivery and make your writing agreeable to read.

Throughout the interview he speaks at length about his process and his influences and how he  deliberately approaches his craft. He gives the impression of a writer who takes his craft and himself as a writer seriously. There is a confidence in his words, and he does not shirk away from being open about putting in the work of writing. Certainly, some of this confidence and self-awareness comes from a long career and the wisdom that comes with being older. He has had plenty of time to be able to articulate his aesthetic and his process. I would also think, though, that given his body of work, and the way he approached the interview, he is a writer who has always taken himself seriously.


Craft Notes / 95 Comments
July 6th, 2011 / 6:21 pm

14th of Something I Hear

Mornings with clouds. Windy mornings. Mornings with black wind rushing like water. The trees quiver, the windows are creaking like a ship. It’s going to rain.

Yes, I’m sure of it. I’m going to meet her. Of course, I’m a little drunk, a little reckless, and in an amiable condition that lets me see myself destined as her lover, cutting into her life with perfect ease.

James Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime is my choice for best love novel ever. I don’t know what that means, exactly. But the prose alone will make you believe in that skittering ghost. People do see it, they say. That’s what good prose does–makes you believe. You’ll see something here, in these pages. The story is devastating. And sensual (one of the finer forms of devastation). Go ahead, name your best “love” book ever. Go ahead. It’s OK. If no, read this one, I say.

Author Spotlight & Random / 27 Comments
February 14th, 2011 / 6:41 pm


I was in a thrift store buying some clothes last week and under the counter I saw a stack of old Playboy magazines. Although it’s hardly possible to be an adult in America and not have at least a passing acquaintance with hardcore pornography, I realized I couldn’t remember ever having looked inside an actual copy of Playboy. So for $5 I bought the copy on top of the stack, the June 1973 issue featuring Marilyn Cole, playmate of the year, with fiction by Joyce Carol Oates, Robert McNear, and George MacDonald Fraser (yes, the issue contains three short stories).

where is she now?


Events / 12 Comments
November 18th, 2010 / 10:40 am


You only get one short story to read for the rest of your life.  What do you choose?  I might go with “The Hortlak” by Kelly Link.  Or “My Lord You” or “Platinum” by James Salter.

Random / 161 Comments
June 28th, 2010 / 11:02 am


young salter: fighter pilot and ladies' man. what's your day job?

There is the knowledge of the senses that includes carnal happiness, and a greater knowledge that comes from intellect and reason. In the life we admire, one succeeds the other but does not dislodge it.

–James Salter, There and Then


Power Quote / 4 Comments
January 28th, 2010 / 12:39 pm