James Salter’s Light Years

The book of books, for me. I’ve kept a copy between my mattress and headboard for thirty years, often open it at random and read a chapter or two. Or I look up a favorite passage: 

“During the days she was utterly at peace. Her life was like a single, well-spent hour. Its secret was its lack of remorse, of self-pity. She felt herself purified. The days were cut from a quarry that would never be emptied. Into it came books, errands, the seashore, occasional pieces of mail. She read them slowly and carefully, sitting in the sunshine, as if they were newspapers from abroad.”

That’s how Nedra felt one summer after her divorce: “The days were cut from a quarry that would never be emptied.” But life pours through our hands, and only 50 pages later:

“She died like her father, suddenly, in the fall of the year. As if leaving a concert during a passage she loved, as if giving up an hour before the light. Or so it seemed. She loved the autumn, she was a creature of blue, flawless days. the sun of their noons hot as the African coast, the chill of the nights immense and clear. As if smiling and acting quickly, as if off to a country, a room, an evening finer than ours.”

As Richard Ford says, “Sentence for sentence, Salter is the master.” 

Also, there is much in this book that evokes for me the history of my own family.