The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 13 June 2003


and other stories

by James Salter

There is an art to evoking place, people and mood with as spare a language as one can present on the page. In this sharp collection of stories, James Salter shows that he is an artist in this field. The tales contained here are short and moody, abstract and evocative. With a surprisingly spare language, Salter makes his stories immediate and sometimes moving. The people are somber, reflecting the overall tone of the book. The places are bright and unforgiving. The emotions are steeped and raw. There are tales of romance, loss, and lust in the light of everyday life. In many cases, the stories end abruptly, often with a closing sentence that can be read as either a surreal turn of phrase or an invitation to imagining a wider unexpected story. This often works. Occasionally, it falls flat. To a certain extent, the stories carry a somewhat predictable tone that makes them likely contents in literary magazines. The book reads something like a literary journal. One would do best to read the stories one at a time. Give them some time to stand on their own, one by one.

(For this book, Salter received a PEN/Faulkner award in 1989.)

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