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

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.

Tags: ,


  1. Josephriippi

      A Sentimental Education.

  2. Kevin Spaide

      First to pop into my head – As a Man Grows Older (or Senility) by Italo Svevo. That book is funny.

  3. alanrossi

      this one you’ve named is my choice as well. even those sentences up there make me want to pick it up, but i’ve loaned it out. black wind.

  4. Troubleman Breakfast

      this novel is an overgrown garden of boners. super sexy stuff, bro. real sopping wet, all that. good one!

  5. Sean

      Ha ha

      wow predictable

      I guess you’re right, if you read it at age 14. I didn’t quote boners. I quoted black rain.

  6. Anonymous

      Newer, but Handler’s ADVERBS is swell.

  7. Kyle Minor

      Sabbath’s Theater, Philip Roth

  8. today, HTMLGIANT (Roxane Gay) said we were PRETTY so it WAS a happy Valentine’s day. « Chick Litz

      […] Lemme see […]

  9. Troubleman Breakfast

      Predictable too that my comment was flagged for review. What’s predictable about a boner? I read the Salter at age 27 and stroked it throughout. I hate the feeling of being flagged for review. What does it matter which part you quoted? Valentine’s Day is for boners, or their female equivalent. Love is composed of boners, or their female equivalents. HTMLGiant smells like AOL.

  10. Sean

      I didn’t flag you. I have no idea why you were flagged. I was as baffled as you are.

      I thought it was “predictable” (my words–but they didn’t flag me–who knows?) you focused on sex. My quotes did not. My quotes focused on prose and technique. The first quote was just great imagist work, but in fiction. The second was immediate characterization and voice–one many readers would follow.
      I just wanted you to address the book on its beauty, not its sex.
      Its beauty is in every perfect sentence. Tell me it’s not loaded with them? It separates itself. Nothing personal. I just didn’t want this book reduced.

  11. Troubleman Breakfast

      Mentioning sex doesn’t preclude prose or technique or beauty. Like alanrossi, I’ve given away my copy, too, so I can’t rifle/riffle through right now to offer a boner-suffused passage that’s as instructive in terms of “prose and technique” as your windy black passage is. But I’d bet it’d take under thirty seconds of rifflin to find several.

      Of course, I’m a little drunk, a little reckless, and in an unamiable condition that lets me see myself hiding my thousand boners under my wireless ergonomic keyboard

      In other words, I don’t think a separation between boners and the “sensual devastation” you describe is possible. Boners = sensuality.


  12. deadgod

      For me, this novel was disappointing – something of a finely-beveled bore. Salter’s Light Years is a better novel – a great novel – , and a great “love” book.

      Craig Nova’s The Good Son. Kaufelt’s Midnight Movies.

      Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility. Villette is a great “love” book, albeit with a shitty ending. A Room with a View succeeds.

      I thought A Lost Lady was a disturbing great “love” book. A New Life.

  13. alanrossi

      i think Light Years is great as well, but did feel it slipped in places. anyway, a finely-beveled bore is harsh. what about Solo Faces? i think it’s strong, especially the first half. have we had this conversation or was that someone else?

  14. Kevin Sampsell

      One that has stuck with me is Into the Great Wide Open by Kevin Canty. Super great coming-of-age love story.

  15. Cole Anders

      The Dissolution of Nicholas Dee.

      I Am Elijah Thrush.

      The Prisoner; The Fugitive.

  16. Laura van den Berg

      I love, love A Sport & a Pastime. It’ my favorite Salter book.

  17. deadgod

      Well, “something of a finely-beveled bore” is less harsh than ‘an absolute swollen-fingered bore’. The gorgeous style didn’t keep me interested in the infatuation. Maybe I’ll give the book – that is: myself – a second try.

      Yes, it was we who agreed that Solo Faces is (also) an expert book. Not really a “love” book, though sex (as an experience of the alien-ness of other people) is part of the climber’s story.

      Salter would be an interesting choice – it would be an interesting message – to win The Big Prize.

  18. Charles Dodd White

      I was intrigued by Sport at first but felt let down, though the ending was mighty fine. I’ve been wanting to read Light Years for a while. Seems like it might be similar to Stegner’s Crossing to Safety, which I also need to get to.

  19. beardobees
  20. mjm

      your last name is lovelace

  21. Sean

      Word. Virtual fist-bump/beer.

  22. Sean

      Peace. I was a little drunk too.


  23. Sean

      It is true. And By that I mean it is true.

  24. saidobject

      The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B. J. P. Donleavy

  25. Adam Prince

      Yes, read Light Years. Definitely read Light Years. I think that and a few of his scattered stories are the best. It’s a strange experience reading the book. There’s no real plot and yet you find yourself completely engaged. The sentences are short and declarative as if there’s nothing to them at all, but somehow there’s so much to them all the same. I read Salter because I just can’t see how he does it.

  26. Adam Prince

      I feel like there’s been a resurgence of interested in Salter lately: his collection Dusk was recently reissued, he’s in Narrative Magazine a lot, etc. And this is a very, very good thing. I think he’s one of the best, most unique living writers we have.

  27. Rebecca Loudon

      Geek Love
      Katherine Dunn