Tag: John Steinbeck

A Sport and A Pastime by James Salter

Posted April 19, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Erotica / 0 Comments

A Sport and A Pastime by James SalterTitle: A Sport and a Pastime (Goodreads)
Author: James Salter
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1967
Pages: 200
Genres: Erotica
My Copy: Library Book

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

1950’s France, an American middle-class college drop-out Philip Dean begins a love with a young French girl. But this sad, tender story of their erotic affair has been captured by a witness, a self-consciously unreliable narrator. This narrator freely admits that some of the observations are his own fantasy of the couple making A Sport and A Pastime an intensely carnal account of this affair and in part a feverish dream.

James Salter’s writing in this book is really interesting; he creates this wonderful imagery with the scenery, the colours, the smells and when it comes to the erotic side of this story this continues in a way that never felt crude or overdone. Sure the descriptions might feel really tame for our generation but there is a real lyrical way about the whole book that really worked for me. I will admit that I’ve not heard of James Salter before but I’m very impressed with his style that I would be curious to read more.

The relationship with Philip Dean and the French girl, Anne-Marie, is just wonderfully portrayed; there is no sense of love between the two, only raw passion. Anne-Marie has a healthy sexual appetite and she wasn’t afraid to tell him what she wanted which I find a little rare, especially considering the year this was written. While she feels like she is dominating at time, there are other times she feel really submissive and I think Salter did a wonderful job in getting that balance right.

The unreliable narrator was tricky to get used to; a friend of Philip’s from Yale, he was on holidays enjoying regional France but he seemed rather obsessed with this affair.  You never quite know what is real and what is made up in his head, sometimes he will tell you but most of the time you are left wondering. It would be weird having a narrator standing beside the bed while you have sex so you have to assume that most of the sex is either his own fantasy or word of mouth.

I do like the way James Salter used this narrator to create this almost dreamlike story and I expect there is a lot more in the novel worth exploring. With a reread or two, I’m sure you will discover some interesting elements. I think Salter was trying to explore the emotions behind sex but sometimes that feels a little ambiguous; the tenderness, thrill, passion all come out rather clear but at times I thought there was an element of boredom and selfishness that was also coming out, just not as well.

A Sport and A Pastime is a wonderfully lyrical novel worth sinking your teeth into, the short sentences really give it a poetic feel throughout the whole book. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but I am glad I gave it a try. I have to wonder why James Salter never had commercial success, was it because he was a misogynist? His style reminds me a bit Steinbeck and Hemingway and yet he isn’t as popular as the two. I’m not sure if I would read much more in the erotic genre but I will have to check out some Henry Miller or Anaïs Nin in the future.

The Son by Philipp Meyer

Posted April 11, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

The Son by Philipp MeyerTitle: The Son (Goodreads)
Author: Philipp Meyer
Published: Ecco, 2013
Pages: 576
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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

The Son is a multigenerational saga spanning three generations. This unforgettable Texas family’s story plays out from the three perspectives, each with their own hardships from Comanche and border raids to the oil boom. This is a story of power, blood, and the land; Philipp Meyer explores the American dream and the dark roots of which it came.

I’ve been meaning to pick up American Rust for a while now but instead The Son is the first look at the remarkable writing of Philipp Meyer. The Son follows three main characters of a Texas family: Eli, his son Pete and Pete’s Granddaughter Jeanne, each with their own set of issues to deal with. Overall this is a novel of the rise of a Texas oil dynasty and the demons facing them.

 First the McCullough family is an old frontier family taking the land from the natives; the first character Eli (born in 1836) tells the story of being early settlers. But he soon finds himself being the sole survivor after being raided by the Comanche. His story is one that shows both sides, being taken captive and then learning the ways of the American natives. Confronting him and the reader with the idea of heritage from both the settlers and natives view point.

His son Peter, not only has to deal with his father’s violent past but also the Mexican border raids of the early 1900s. This is a very emotionally driven narrative, his father who has obviously had to adapt to Comanche life only to watch them die out with disease, starvation and the discrimination of settlers. Now Eli has a drive for power and Peter shares this story, how it effects the family, all while defending their land from raiding Mexicans.

Finally we have Jeanna, her story is not so violent but confronting none the less. Her story follows the Oil booms of the 20th century, the social and economy changing all while dealing with the demons of her family history. She is left to deal with most of the major consequences of her family’s choices in the past, while trying to succeed in business in a male dominated industry and world.

This is an epic adventure of wealth, privilege, family and the consequences of our actions. While it is a pretty dark subject matter, the book is rather elegant and beautiful. The prose alone makes it that way, Meyer really has created this wonderful scenery, yet I’ve not really noticed an overuse of similes. The writing style reminds me a little of John Steinbeck but there is an element of Cormac McCarthy that comes through as well, especially in Eli’s story. Overall The Son is a compelling novel with some interesting ideas for the reader.

I was really impressed with this novel but with the constant changing of time periods and characters at times I did feel like I struggled to keep up but Philipp Meyer did manage to push the story on. Historical Fiction with shades of western and southern gothic is how I would describe this novel but there is so much more to it than that. This is the second book in the American trilogy planned by Meyer, all dealing with issues facing America. American Rust with the towns that modern economy leave behind when all the factories move and The Son rather than dealing with a declining America, it deals with its dark past full of the blood and bones on the natives. I can’t wait to read American Rust and I’m interested to know what book three would be about but that may be awhile out. For now it check out Philipp Meyer’s works he has the makings of a great American author.