Saturday, 17 May 2014

James Salter

A while ago I had the pleasure of reading James Salter's Light Years. It is the story of Nedra and Viri, a couple whose life is centered around raising their  two daughters, entertaining friends, and holidays to Amagansett (yes, that nice place in New York reserved for the rich). In that sense it is very much a book centered on domesticity and family life.

There is, however,  a lot that can be said about the (sometimes irritating) over-privilege of these two people and that seems to have been the focus of criticism when the book first appeared in 1975. Viri and Nedra have a slight obsession with fame, money and recognition; and whatever they achieve – it is never enough. But what makes this book so compelling is its sensuality. I have never read a book that appeals so deeply to the senses. The warmth of the sun, the smell of the salty sea air, the flavours of a meal, the elegance of tasteful clothes - Salter allows his readers to not just read, but to experience. After I had finished the novel, I experienced the sensual world around me (the rustling of leaves on the trees, the smell of a roast in the oven, the touch of certain materials) quite differently -  more consciously, with renewed appreciation.  A pretty clever achievement for an author, I think.

Another of Salter’s books – albeit a totally different one – is a book about food called Life is Meals. The title, incidentally, is a quote taken from Light Years. It’s a lovely book to hold:  heavy, with thick paper and a sturdy, carton-like cover.  The book is organised like a diary with entries for each day of the year, all to do with food & drink and entertaining. A must-have for foodies, with tidbits about everything from salt to coffee. Clearly written with love.

Love the thick, sturdy cover and the stripes, which are also on the inside flap...

...and the beautiful illustrations with a Parisian feel

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