Dusk and Other Stories by James Salter 1988
I re-read this book of 11 short stories when a college roommate sent me a copy after he read all of Salter’s works following my recommendation of Light Years. This new edition from the Modern Library has a fine introduction by Philip Gourevitch and was worth the re-read. Salter is not a happy camper, but he writes exquisite sentences that made me stop, re-read, and then contemplate sentences on almost every page. The stories are grim filled with lonely, unhappy people trapped in unhappy circumstance,s but the writing is redemptive. Here’s one lovely sentence about a 46 year old woman whose husband has left her, who has lost a son to a boating accident, and who is being left by her summer lover: “The house was amid fields. From the upstairs, distant barns and fences could be seen. It was a beautiful house, for years she had felt it was unique. The garden was tended, the wood stacked, the screens in good repair. It was the same inside, everything well selected, the soft, white sofas, the rugs and chairs, the Swedish glasses that were so pleasant to hold, the lamps. The house is my soul, she used to say.” How perfect is Salter’s listing of the objects and the details (who else would have mentioned the screens with their translucence, their permeability, but ultimately, their ability to keep out the annoying and dangerous?) as well as the contrast between the beauty and orderliness of her house (her soul) and the messiness and failure of her relationships?
This is not a happy time reading exercise, but it does show off one of our great American writers at his best.