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am 28. Juni 2000
Read this. What distinguishes this book is the narrator, a male Nellie Dean. He is a "writer" who knows he's very, very good; who self-consciously describes the French landscape and people in literary terms - recasting events at will to demonstrate his authority and virtuosity; who pretends he's Stendahl when describing social situations; and who is ultimately confronted by something he is incapable of -- erotic love, not his own, but someone else's. The novel is about what he thinks is important, and how he is in a way undone by the affair of a young American drifter and a French shopgirl.
What are we to make of the narrator's descriptions of their love, their sex? Are they accurate or imagined? If they depict "real" events, how did he learn of them? Are we to believe what he tells us about how he came upon the information? Why can't we dismiss, why are we so drawn in by his exquisite, terse narrative when we also get the sense that he could well be a sicko voyeur? The fact of his sensitivity toward the lovers (perhaps he writes compassionately about the lovers to win his readers over) really shouldn't excuse his crimes, right?
All writers and readers of fiction, of course, are snoops. How delicious it is to spy on others, even if they are not real, and even when the act of spying (or reading) makes us aware of our own shortcomings. I was completely overwhelmed by this one.
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am 15. Januar 2000
In the introduction to the Modern Library edition, Salter stated he was trying to write a book of imperishable images and obsessions-- which contrasted the ordinary from the divine. Existential, surreal, expressionist, emotionally abstract, all these terms can be applied inadequately to the result. Set around France, it follows a footloose Yale dropout's relationship with a young shopgirl. It is a passionate shambles of impressions and reflections. The book's sparsity fills volumes. The third person, subjective narrative merges with the thoughts of the protagonist, always focused on sensuality and fragility. Like a dissonance of the will and conscience, it all seems imagined. Braced by precise language, compressed to a critical mass, Salter's withering insights release sudden visual eruptions. This tale is an intensely philosophical look at life, outlined by a passing love affair. Writing that has achieved this level of density and inner light is rare. A Sport and a Pastime sparkles and dazzles!
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am 18. Juli 1997
Lest anyone be misled, this book is indeed risque, which means (luckily) that it will never pass the censors into the Intro to Lit 1A at Princeton. On the other hand, obviously enough if you have any sensitivity at all to language and any honesty as an adult, it is certainly not about sex in any but the most remotely pedestrian way that a description of the
handling capabilities of a vintage Morgan would be to enthusiasts of British sportscars. I love this book.

Discovered it in as unlikely a form as I first discovered John Fowles The Magus, that is to say in a popular American paperback edition off a drugstore book carousel, marketed cynically by Bantam as a
porno expose replete with tiny photo-nudes
of a girl wrapped in aluminum foil, which perhaps got the editors off the hook for sending such a frankly explicit book into the heart of provincial America.

What I discovered, of course, as a budding
writer and undergraduate at Berkeley, was
a prose as astonishingly suave and deft as
Faberge, --French, if you will, in its stiff poses and exaggerated emotional vantages-- but uninhibited in a way that released the imagination much as Miller or
Celine could with flights of descriptive phraseology. "The rain came down like gravel." --That sense! of immediacy and effortlessness with memorable surfaces and remorseful nostalgia that could mark time
like the best Pop singles when you were madly in love and sensually in thrall.
How could you forget what it was like to be
in love at 22--and driving through rural France in the early Spring of your life?
As poignant as Debussy down a lane of Poplars, --or read "American Express," a later story Salter published first in Esquire magazine, about the soured aftermath of such an arrangement, where the
merely bad breath has become the bitterness
of pruriency, the innocence turned inside out as a classic truth: The young and "innocent" seduce the worldly and experienced, not the other (predictable) way around.

But enough slogging. What makes this book special is that it accepts physical love on
the same terms as all other sensual food, and claims it as memory's own, to fondle, shade and re-create at will. This story could be ten different stories, all the affairs intersecting at the center of the park "all parks imply." Classic--in the purest sense of non-specific, rural, almost
Medieval physical data--unashamed, but with
the haughty, game ghost of Moliere or Rostand standing by the shadowy curtain in the wings. Or perhaps Chekov, smiling knowingly from on high....

I find myself agreeing with Brendan Gill's
characterization of its being "Mandarin" in quality, but cannot resist holding it privately to my breast as a secret pleasure despite its pretention and prideful manliness. Heaven help us if we
shun the dapper irony of its mode, the
unfashionable grace of its (now seemingly dated) modernity. One could as well relegate the antics of Willie Mays or
Larry Bird to obscurity, as neglect such
an ambitious prose stylist as Salter to the ranks of the "minor."
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am 15. August 1999
This was the first Salter novel that I had read, so I did not know quite what to expect. For the first few pages, the short, terse sentences tended to get on my nerves a little as I was thinking, "Okay, here we go -- another Hemingway wanna-be." But it did not take long to recognize a style that was unique to the author. The beauty of the prose and imagery that Salter offers is nothing less than remarkable. Few authors have the ability to completely draw the reader into their world with the masterful skill that I so enjoyed in reading this book. No words are wasted, and each sentence makes the relationship between the characters and the reader a bit more intimate. "A Sport and a Pastime" is, quite simply, the best novel I've read in a very long time. The only question I had when I had finished was: "Why has it taken me so long to discover James Salter?"
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am 13. Januar 1998
This book is odd in several respects. It is narrated through the imagined or dreamed episodes of the narrator. The plot concerns an affair between a young Aerican and a French girl of 18. Although there is sex on almost every page, and there can hardly be any more ways of describing it, the scenes are narrated flatly and are set in dingy, rainy, grungy parts of France. The affair has nowhere to go, the participants being dependent on one another for their happiness. Without sex they have nothing to say to each other. More interesting is the device of the third person narration. We are given a description of the narrator, but he, too is flat and unemotional. One might conclude that he has dreamed the whole story up. Salter's writing is vivid and smooth, but his story is a one-note symphony. It's hard to empathize with any of the characters, which leaves the main thrust of the book in the bedroom. But it's better than average.
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am 7. Mai 2000
While somewhat unconventional, Salter has managed to pen one of the greatest love stories ever told. His detail to, not only place, but to the unspoken feelings of the 2 lovers involved, is unparalleled in ANY novel. Salter has the very unique talent of making you feel what you read. A Sport and a Pastime should be found in every booklover's library.
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am 29. Oktober 1998
I had never heard of James Salter prior to reading an excerpt of his recent memoir, Burning the Days, printed in the New Yorker last fall. I was interested enough by the article to go out and read "A Sport and a Pastime." Having read so many good books over the last 20 years, it is rare for me to trip across an author's work in which I think, on every page, migod, this guy is good. I did so with this book. Such a personal and unusual writing style! If you haven't yet read this book (or anything else of Salter's), you have some terrific evenings ahead of you.
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am 24. Dezember 1998
The negative reviews of this masterpiece mean nothing. Make up your own mind. It's easy. Just read the testimonials on the back. If they inspire you, then I'm certain you WILL enjoy this book. Salter etches a magnificent dreamscape one word at a time. Doesn't matter if you've visited France or not. You'll want to go after this.
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am 16. Mai 2000
My first introduction to Salter and one of my most treasured books.
Follow an expatriate and Yale dropout as he travels the streets of Paris and the french countryside with his girlfriend. Salter gets to the marrow of what it is like to be a young man in love and bears the soul of his character as if it were his own. It details the loss of innocence and the understanding of love.
Some have criticized the book for its subject matter. However, it's depth of style, originality and lasting impression make it a masterpiece of American Fiction.
I highly recommended this addition to any reader's shelf. Salter's work will haunt you.
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am 21. März 1997
A young student comes to a small French town for the season and shares a house with a wealthy American college graduate with a big car and a large sexual appetite who sets about seducing and educating a young waitress. Told by the student, it is a story of one man's fantasy of anothers adventure that all men wish they had experienced at least once when they have little left but memories. The prose is excellent, the tale resplendant with rainswept roadways, sundrenched hotel rooms overlooking gravel walks and the intricate thoughts of a wayward, directionless youth claiming manhood. One of Salter's best three up to now
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