All That Is

James Salter, Author
James Salter. Knopf, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-400-04313-2
Hardcover - 289 pages - 978-1-4472-3824-9
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The 87-year-old PEN/Faulkner Award–winner’s (Dusk and Other Stories) first full-length novel in more than three decades spans some 40 years and follows the accidental life, career, and loves of book editor Philip Bowman. After serving in the Pacific during WWII, Bowman stumbles into publishing at a time when small houses reigned. During extravagant literary parties and travels through Europe, Bowman shares his thoughts on authors both real and imagined. And yet his career is merely a vehicle for his loves and losses, connections made and missed. The women in his life somehow never suit and his many endings are always inexplicable to him. But Salter renders the first blushes of Bowman’s loves exquisitely—their giddiness, occasional illicitness, eroticism—and his bewilderment after the relationships fail feels achingly real. By way of counterpoint, the author illustrates the happy but tragic marriage of a close friend, which parallels rather than intersects, since Bowman fails to connect with anyone. The number of characters who parade through the book can frustrate, and Salter’s choice to render, for a chapter, a well-known character anonymously was unnecessary. But Salter measures his words carefully, occasionally punctuating his elegant prose with sharp, erotic punches. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Apr.)
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