Fall Book Reviews: Part 1 of 3
“The leaves had come down, it seemed, in a single night. The prodigious arcade of trees in the village gave them up quickly; they fell like rain. They lay like runs of water along the melancholy road. In the turning of seasons they would be green again, these great trees. Their dead branches would be snapped away, their limbs would quicken and fill. They would again, in addition to their beauty, to the roof they made beneath the sky, to their whispering, their slow, inarticulate sounds, the riches they poured down, they would, besides all this, give scale to everything, a true scale, reassuring, wise. We do not live as long, we do not know as much.” - James Salter, Light Years
Only one book makes it into the first installment of fall reviews. But it’s one that undoubtedly will sit on my favorite’s bookshelf. I loved, loved, loved this novel.
LIGHT YEARS by JAMES SALTER
Why did it take light years for me to read this beautiful book? Critically acclaimed. On many favorite novel lists. I can count on one hand the books I never wanted to end, and this is one of them. Light Years is the story about a marriage and the fissures that cause it to flame out. Viri and Nedra and their two daughters entertain friends, skate on the frozen river, sit by fires, travel and live full lives within the passage of time. Reading was like watching old 8 mm films of this family while seeing between frames the subtle betrayals and comfortable secrets they all held from one another. Salter’s prose is minimalist in explanation but packs everything needed into a few sentences. The paperback is dog eared on every other page with examples.
On NYC, “The city is a cathedral of possessions; its scent is dreams.” On dying a slow death: “It took a long time, it took forever; days and nights, the smell of antiseptic, the hush of rubber wheels. This frail engine, we think, and yet what murder is needed to take it down. The heart is in darkness, unknowing, like those animals in mines that have never seen the day. It has no loyalties, no hopes; it has its task.”
Or: “The power to change one’s life comes from a paragraph, a lone remark. The lines that penetrate us are slender, like the flukes that live in river water and enter the bodies of swimmers.”
There are a million more…. “He was sailing to Europe. Beneath him as he lifted his spoon, fish were gliding black as ice in a midnight sea. The keel crossed over them like a comb of thunder.”
Okay, okay. Read it for your own favorites.
Favorite line(s): Of them all, it was the true love. Of them all, it was the best. That other, that sumptuous love which made one drunk, which one longed for, envied, believed in, that was not life. It was what life was seeking; it was a suspension of life. But to be close to a child, for whom one spent everything, whose life was protected and nourished by one’s own, to have that child beside one, at peace, was the real, the deepest, the only joy.