Tag: All that is

All That Is by James Salter

Posted February 22, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

All That Is by James SalterTitle: All That Is (Goodreads)
Author: James Salter
Published: Picador, 2013
Pages: 304
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

After 30 years James Slater returns to the literary world with a new novel, All That Is. With 88 years of life experience under his belt, Salter offers a unique perspective of life, passion and regret. All That Is explores fragment of Philip Bowman’s life, as a naval officer in World War II, attending Harvard University and going on to be an editor of a small publishing house. While this doesn’t cover Bowman’s life in the way a memoir would, we get little snippets of his life and what is important to him.

James Salter has been often dubbed as a writer’s writer, a title he wished to shed when writing All That Is, but does he pull that off? For me, this title means that he is a writer than other writers and serious readers love, but that the casual reader often won’t enjoy. The reasoning is that the beauty in Salter’s books is in the proses and not the plot. He feels like an old fashion writer; he writes proses so  elegant that it is often intimidating. He doesn’t try to write the perfect sentence that will blow the reader away every time; he does not want to lavish the reader, but you’ll still find a style that I think is graceful from page to page.

Something that I think goes against what is often taught to writers is that Salter is really good at ‘telling not showing’. He knows what he is doing and he executes this method in a precise way that just works for him. There are times when his similes and metaphors do come across as weird but for the most part everything flows and I found myself being swept away in the cleverness of his writing.

When exploring Philip Bowman’s life, we really get a sense of him as a person and the people he meets along the way. Some people we only meet for a few paragraphs but the style of Salter is enough to give the reader a good sense of who they are in such a short amount of time. This is a real talent and I really loved the little snap shots of people along the way. He manages to explore the little details and while we don’t know everything, he has painted a magnificent portrait of Bowman’s life.

As if it was a refrain to the novel we are often taken to a cocktail party and often we read about Philip Bowman making a move on a woman (often a married one) and inviting them to lunch. This often leads to sex and I think we are constantly reading about these conquests because they are important to Bowman. While this does feel a little repetitive at times, I think it is interesting to show the behavioural pattern of Bowman and his tried and true method of picking up woman.

I want to talk about the sex within All That Is (and Salter novels in general), while there isn’t as much as there was in A Sport and a Pastime (which I consider an erotic novel) there was still a lot in this one. The sex scenes in his novels might be considered crude and offensive to some, but they do play an important part, in All That Is we explore the passion and regrets of Philip Bowman’s life, a man that likes sex and though he can be a bit of a dick at times when trying to get laid, it felt honest and real. Salter doesn’t play around with euphemisms when he writes sex scenes, they are non-ludicrous and sometimes over descriptive. The thing I like about his sex scenes is that he doesn’t always try to be erotic, sometimes they are awkward or unintentionally funny, this just makes it feel more real; sometimes there is passion and it’s erotic, sometimes things go wrong. Often better than the sex itself is the events that follow, they may just be lying in bed making small talk, but it is here we get some real unseen insights into these characters.

I think I’m becoming a fan of James Salter, while I would recommend A Sport and a Pastime over this novel, there is a real joy in reading proses like this. James Salter does give a huge nod to the book industry and his love of books, but for me this was about life, love, passion and regret. Exploring the life of Philip Bowman was an interesting endeavour; sure, he is fictional but the book says a lot about life in general. Salter is not for everyone but if you like beautiful language and not afraid of some graphic depictions of sex then he is an author worth checking out.

Monthly Review – January 2014

Posted January 31, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyHard to believe that the first month of 2014 is over, it has been amazing to see how much excitement people are having towards The Literary Exploration Reading Challenge. For those who don’t know about the reading challenge, there is still time to join in the fun, so check out my introductory post here. Most people were busy enjoying the reading challenge, so our group read, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, didn’t get talked about much, but from what I’ve read it has all be very positive.

I’ve been off to a flying start this year, I’ve read seven books which is surprising since I have no reading goal and I want to take my time with reading. Most of those books go towards the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge and you can find my own record of the challenge here. I’m thinking about trying to read two books for each genre this year and I’m keeping a record of every book and which genre it best fits into on that page as well, just to see which genres need more attention in my exploring.

Highlights of the month for me include; Books by Charlie Hill, 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, All That Is by James Salter, The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich and Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas. Also a special mention to my current literary obsession Gary Shteyngart; I read his memoir Little Failure and bought all his books (with the exception to Super Sad True Love Story, which I already owned), I hope to read all his books this year but I’m sure other books will get in the way. So what have you been reading this month?

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My Thoughts on the Man Booker Changes

Posted September 30, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

man booker 2013People are talking about the changes to the Man Booker Prize and I thought I would weigh in as well. I’ve already talked about My Thoughts on the Man Booker and the love hate relationship I have with this award but I want to express my thoughts to this outrage. I follow the Man Booker and sometimes I’m impressed but I do not like the changes to the Man Booker Prize next year, and it’s not because of the inclusion of Americans.

The major change to the Man Booker is that this award will include all English written novels and I know people are upset with this. The only major English speaking country that wasn’t included in the Man Booker Prize before was America and people are upset that someone like Jonathan Franzen could win the award but I have to ask, what about the other American authors? I look at this year in American literature and I think books like The Son by Philipp Meyer, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra and All That Is by James Salter could have be nominated and I’d be happy to see them make the long list.

The major problem I have is with the change in the submission guidelines. Originally each publisher and imprint could nominate two books to be put forward for the prize but now to make room for other countries they have dropped it down to one submission each, it gets a little more concerning with the wildcard nominations. All publishers and imprints that get a book included in the longlist over the past five years get extra submissions.

  • 1 submission – publishers with no listing
  • 2 submissions – publishers with 1 or 2 longlisting(s)
  • 3 submissions – publishers with 3 or 4 longlistings
  • 4 submissions – publishers with 5 or more longlistings

The concern I have with this is the fact that some publishers will have a chance to grow and the little indie publishers might struggle. The Man Booker Prize is a huge money maker. The Nielsen Bookscan have released a list of the sale jumps for the Man Booker winners for the past 10 years, books like Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel and The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes see a jump in sales of over 450% but the other books had a boost of about 700-2000%. This means that the Man Booker sales boosts can potential help a publisher with four books in a longlist while some of the little publishers could struggle to make one on the list.

Apart from worrying about the small publishers, I think the submission guidelines could mean some publishers can put forward more obscure book choices and some will only have one chance to make it onto the list and the worry is that they will submit the most popular book rather than an unknown book that deserves the attention. I know Folio is starting a new literary prize because the Man Booker Prize has become too readable (whatever that means) so they might be the one to watch in future years. What do you think of the changes? What are your concerns?