My first book of 2020 is James Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime. The prose is unbelievably smooth, and the story takes an inventive approach/point-of-view to more traditional romance and erotic narrative. This quote, from a New Yorker piece on Salter’s work, describes what I enjoy finding in a lot of the stuff I’ve read in the past few years. Salter stood up to this notion with gusto.
From Nick Paumgarten:
“Richard Ford, citing a peerless ‘intuition for the world’s details and for its unobvious emotional business,’ declared, ‘It is an article of faith among readers of fiction that James Salter writes American sentences better than anyone writing today.’
“Holding up a single sentence as proof is like pulling a bluefin from the sea: right away, the color fades. Anyway, Salter’s style may be less about sentences than about paragraphs. It is elliptical. The details and observations accrue in such a way—obliquely, melodiously—that they pull a reader forward in anticipation of the next unexpected leap: a stray object, an odd gesture, a bald declaration, or a rash act. He can be suddenly cruel. The syntax is cool, fine-hewn, rather than self-conscious or pyrotechnic. It doesn’t sound like speech. He forgoes colloquialisms and the mad chatter of American life. It’s been his style from the beginning, and it’s hard to determine where it came from.”