Late James Salter was the protagonist of our last before vacation 'Extra Summer Meeting'. Called 'a writer´s writer' was not as popular among readers as among other artists. Jhumpa Lahiri or Jonathan Carroll are just some of his 'fans'.
If you've missed our last meeting, below I attach an obituary from 'The Guardian' so that you can read about James Salter and his amazing talent. I hope it will encourage you to look for his works!
James Salter Obituary
Cult author who ‘wrote American sentences better than anyone’
James Salter in 2008. His first novel, The Hunters, about the Korean war was turned into a 1958 film starring Robert Mitchum and Robert Wagner. Photograph: Julien Chatelin/Rex Features
Monday 22 June 2015 18.09 BST Last modified on Tuesday 23 June 2015 22.41 BST
For six decades in which he published only five novels and a collection of stories, James Salter, who has died aged 90, was a cult writer whose work generated mixed reviews and small sales. Only in the new century, following his memoir Burning the Days (1997) and his second collection of stories, Last Night (2005), did the mainstream catch up. When his sixth novel, All That Is, appeared in 2013, Salter quipped that he had signed more copies of it in an Oxford Street bookshop store than he had sold editions of all his previous books.
Salter wrote painstakingly, once calling himself a “frotteur” who liked to “rub words in his hand, to turn them around and feel them, to wonder if that’s really the best word possible”. The novelist Richard Ford, one of many fellow writers who appreciated Salter’s work long before it won general public acclaim, once declared that he “writes American sentences better than anyone”.
His precise prose saw Salter compared with Ernest Hemingway, whose writing he admired but whose character he found “distasteful”. He once wrote that “man’s dream and ambition is to have women, as a cat’s is to catch birds, but this is something that must be restrained”. In that restraint lay a very French sense of sadness, intensified by Salter’s skill with his female characters, whom he saw as those facing “the harder task”.
Salter was already in his 30s when his first novel, The Hunters (1956), was published. A war story based on his experience of more than 100 sorties as a jet fighter pilot in the Korean War, it focused on the conflict between a squadron leader in search of his first kill and his reckless wingman. Salter did shoot down one Korean jet, but that kill was registered under his real name – James Horowitz.
Born in Passaic, New Jersey, to George and Mildred, he grew up in Manhattan, where his father was successful in real estate. At the elite Horace Mann school he edited the literary magazine, whose contributors included Jack Kerouac. His father had graduated first in his class from West Point, the US military academy; James allowed himself to be persuaded to follow in his footsteps in 1942. He qualified for a flight programme, but a month before graduation, on VE Day in 1945, he got lost on a training flight and crashed in Massachusetts. The second world war had ended before he saw combat, but after completing a degree at Georgetown University he was assigned to Tactical Air Command, Virginia, from which he volunteered for Korea.
Salter was a major stationed in Germany in charge of an aerial demonstration team when The Hunters appeared under his pen-name, chosen both to hide his identity from military comrades and to avoid being typecast as “another Jewish writer from New York”. With a $60,000 payment for the film rights (the 1958 movie starred Robert Mitchum and Robert Wagner) he was able to pursue his dream of writing, but found the switch difficult. “As a writer you aren’t anybody until you become somebody,” he said. “As a pilot you’re nobility from the very beginning. It was worse than divorce, emotionally.”
Salter had married Ann Altemus in 1951 and began to raise a family. Living up the Hudson River from New York, he sold swimming pools while working on his second novel, The Arm of Flesh (1961), based on his experiences in Germany. He rewrote it completely and retitled it Cassada when it was reissued 40 years later. With a neighbour he also began making documentary films, including Team Team Team, the story of the US army gridiron squad preparing to play against the US naval academy.
He wrote film scripts while finishing what is now his best known novel, A Sport and a Pastime (1967), the story of an affair between a Yale dropout and a girl he meets in France. Its frank sexual content saw it turned down by his publisher, but eventually the American writer George Plimpton published it under the Paris Review imprint, in a small edition that failed to sell. It was perhaps too salacious for the high-minded, too subtly crafted for the prurient.
Salter then turned temporarily to screenwriting, and saw three films released in 1969: The Appointment (a disappointment, starring Omar Sharif); the skiing film Downhill Racer, starring Robert Redford; and Three, in which two male college friends travel to Europe and find themselves vying for the attention of a mysterious woman (Charlotte Rampling). He wrote the last of these three with help from his friend the novelist Irwin Shaw, and also directed the film.
Salter’s 1975 novel Light Years chronicled the coming apart of a loving marriage and the sadness of unfilled expectations, reflecting his own condition at the time. He and Ann divorced in 1975 and he began to live between Bridgehampton, Long Island, and Aspen, Colorado, where he met the journalist and playwright Kay Eldredge, who became his second wife. He wrote travel articles (collected in Then and There, 2005) and interviews for People Magazine with writers such as Vladimir Nabokov. A mountain climbing film script turned down by Redford became his fifth novel, Solo Faces (1979).
His short stories appeared in Esquire, the Paris Review, and Grand Street, and in 1978 a new small press in San Francisco, North Point, offered to publish a collection of his short stories, bringing some of his fiction back into print. He took 10 years to write the two stories he wanted to fill out the collection, Dusk and Other Stories, but it eventually won the Pen/Faulkner award for fiction in 1989.
His rediscovery following publication of his memoir saw him publish six books in his last decade, and finally he had a story accepted by the New Yorker. All That Is won him a Windham Campbell award for fiction in 2013 and the $150,000 prize at last gave him a measure of financial security.
He is survived by Kay, by three children, Nina, Claude and James from his first marriage, and by a son, Theo, from his second. His eldest daughter, Allan, predeceased him.
• James Salter (James Arnold Horowitz), writer, born 10 June 1925; died 19 June 2015