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Light Years by James Salter
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Light Years (original 1975; edition 1982)

by James Salter

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5801517,036 (4.05)25
Member:deb80
Title:Light Years
Authors:James Salter
Info:North Point Press (1982), Paperback, 308 pages
Collections:Your library, Books Read 2013
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, american, new york

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Light Years by James Salter (1975)

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
This is a beautiful book about marriage and life. The characters are richly drawn. The descriptions of home and hearth are realistic, ordinary but sublime. ( )
  ghefferon | Jul 4, 2013 |
I love James Salter books. Every one of them is an absolute treasure. Recently I read his newest novel, ALL THAT IS, and it simply floored me. Enough so that I needed to read more. So I picked up his previous novel, LIGHT YEARS, first published in 1975. That's a pretty long interval between novels, but my God, this guy is good. If anything, I found LIGHT YEARS to be even a bit better than his new one. He probably wouldn't want to hear that, but hell, the fact of the matter is I have never read a bad book by Salter. There just aren't enough superlatives to describe them. One early review from The Philadelphia Inquirer called LIGHT
YEARS: "Extraordinary ... exultant, unabashedly sexual, sensual, and profoundly sad ... a masterpiece."

All of which definitely says it better than my homely "holy crap" homage I normally bestow on such books. So I'm just gonna give you a few examples here of the way Salter writes as he tells the story of a marriage and a family - affluent New York architect Viri Berland, his wife Nedra, and their two daughters. Salter artfully traces the arc of their lives from the late 50s into the early 70s. Maybe I should say the "rise and fall" of a marriage and a life that just seems too perfect to be true - or to last.

On children - "Children are our crop, our fields, our earth. They are birds let loose into darkness. They are errors renewed. Still, they are the only source from which may be drawn a life more successful, more knowing than our own. Somehow they will do one thing, take one step further, they will see the summit."

On death (Nedra sitting with her father dying of cancer in hospital) - "By morning her father had gone into a coma. He lay helpless, breathing more evenly, more slowly ... She called to him: nothing. He had said his last words. Suddenly she was choked with sadness. Oh, peace to you, Papa, she thought ... It took a long time; it took forever; days and nights, the smell of antiseptic, the hush of rubber wheels. This frail engine, we think, and yet what murder is needed to take it down."

On that sexuality and sensuality mentioned (both Viri and Nedra engage in extended extramarital affairs) - "They had begun the unending journey, forward a bit, then back ... he was seizing her arms, her shoulders. She was moaning. She had forgotten him, her body was writhing, clenching like a fist."

A winter morning at the Berlands' country house - "Winter comes. A bitter cold. The snow creaks underfoot with a rich mournful sound. The house is surrounded by white. Hours of sleep, the air chill. The most delicious sleep, is death so warm, so easeful?"

I have never been much of a reader of poetry. Its difficulty and so-called "hidden meanings" often put me off. But Salter's prose reads like poetry, language which illuminates rather than obscures. It is a language that makes you wish you could lie down in it and luxuriate in its richness. I often found myself reading lines aloud to myself, turning the words over and over in my mind. It's just so beautiful.

You can tell, of course, how much Salter values books, another strong connection for me. Here's an example - "The book was in her lap ... The power to change one's life comes from a paragraph, a lone remark. The lines that penetrate us are slender, like the flukes that live in river water and enter the bodies of swimmers. She was excited, filled with strength. The polished sentences had arrived, it seemed, like so many other things, at just the right time. How can we imagine what our lives would be without the illumination of the lives of others?"

Or, in another passage, where the Berlands' daughter thinks of her childhood home - "... she longed to go back as one longs to hold a certain book again though knowing every phrase, as one longs for music or friends."

LIGHT YEARS is rich with living, with language, with life. Yes, "a masterpiece." I'll say it again: I love James Salter books. My highest recommendation. ( )
2 vote TimBazzett | Jun 13, 2013 |
Beautiful. Salter's prose flows like poetry. A really moving inspection of a failing relationship.
  davebessom | Apr 5, 2013 |
I feel like I shouldn't have loved this book, but I did. ( )
  AminaMemory | Mar 31, 2013 |
My first introduction to this unregarded American master. His time will come!
  BillBoden | Aug 5, 2010 |
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James Salterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ford, RichardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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We dash the black river, its flats smooth as stone.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679740732, Paperback)

This exquisite, resonant novel is a brilliant portrait of marriage by a contemporary American master. Even as he lingers over the lustrous surface of Viri and Nedra's marriage, James Salter makes us see the cracks that are spreading through it, flaws that will in time mar it beyond repair. "An unexpectedly moving ode to beautiful lives frayed by time."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:28 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

This exquisite, resonant novel is a brilliant portrait of marriage by a contemporary American master. Even as he lingers over the lustrous surface of Viri and Nedra's marriage, James Salter makes us see the cracks that are spreading through it, flaws that will in time mar it beyond repair. "An unexpectedly moving ode to beautiful lives frayed by time."… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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