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The Most Wonderful Sport

James Salter: Those Magnificent Men, 6 November 2014

The Unsubstantial Air: American Fliers in the First World War 
by Samuel Hynes.
Farrar, Straus, 322 pp., £17.99, November 2014, 978 0 374 27800 7
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... The age of flight​ had barely begun in 1914 – the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk in 1903 – but it had developed swiftly. The Wrights’ airplane – in the shape of a big box kite, made of spruce and muslin – flew at a speed of about seven miles an hour, not much faster than a man walking briskly beside it. By 1908 an improved version went forty miles an hour, and a year after that Blériot, in a plane of his own design, flew across the English Channel ...

Full of Hell

Fatema Ahmed: James Salter, 5 February 2004

by James Salter.
Harvill, 208 pp., £10.99, August 2003, 1 86046 925 6
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Light Years 
by James Salter.
Vintage, 320 pp., £6.99, August 2003, 0 09 945022 4
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... In his memoir, Burning the Days (1997), James Salter tells a story about an encounter between William Faulkner and an officer from the local airbase in Greenville, Mississippi in the early 1950s. They talk of the excitement of flying, and Faulkner drunkenly reminisces about his days as a pilot in France during the First World War ...

Memories We Get to Keep

James Meek: James Salter’s Apotheosis, 20 June 2013

All That Is 
by James Salter.
Picador, 290 pp., £18.99, May 2013, 978 1 4472 3824 9
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Collected Stories 
by James Salter.
Picador, 303 pp., £18.99, May 2013, 978 1 4472 3938 3
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... It isn’t Salter’s language alone that numbers him among the masters, but it is what strikes you first. From Light Years of 1975: ‘On the stands in nearby orchards were hard, yellow apples filled with powerful juice. They exploded against the teeth, they spat white flecks like arguments.’ From the story ‘Am Strande von Tanger’, on the death of a bird: ‘A heart no bigger than an orange seed has ceased to beat ...


Graham Hough, 3 April 1980

Old Soldiers 
by Paul Bailey.
Cape, 120 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 224 01783 7
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Nocturnes for the King of Naples 
by Edmund White.
Deutsch, 148 pp., £3.95, February 1980, 0 233 97173 4
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Solo Faces 
by James Salter.
Collins, 220 pp., £5.50, February 1980, 0 00 221983 2
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by Mario Satz, translated by Helen Lane.
Sidgwick, 432 pp., £7.95, February 1980, 0 283 98607 7
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... the mountains. The mindlessness, the taciturnity, the dedication to physical achievement, take James Salter perilously close to the Hemingway bad lands, even within hailing distance of Clint Eastwood: but not, I think, over the edge. The treatment of Rand and his exploits is quite free from the bar-room knowingness, the sentimentality and the sadism ...


Simon Schaffer, 6 April 1995

Sir Hans Sloane: Collector, Scientist, Antiquary, Founding Father of the British Museum 
edited by Arthur MacGregor.
British Museum, 308 pp., £50, November 1994, 0 7141 2085 5
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... menagerie at Chelsea. But generous trust could easily be satirised as simple-minded credulity. James Salter, a fellow Ulsterman and one-time servant of Sloane, put objects such as ‘Pontius Pilate’s Wife’s Chambermaid’s Sister’s Hat’, allegedly acquired from his former master, on show at a coffee house in Cheyne Walk. It was thanks to ...


David Thomson: LA Rhapsody, 27 January 2022

Always Crashing in the Same Car: On Art, Crisis and Los Angeles, California 
by Matthew Specktor.
Tin House, 378 pp., $17.95, July 2021, 978 1 951142 62 9
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... natural casting as a failure. He is a classic writer, in the old Esquire tradition, a lesser James Salter, and a dedicated ladies’ man. Specktor’s chapter on him turns into a synopsis for a screwball movie with its account of the filming of what became 92 in the Shade (1975).McGuane and his first wife, Becky, lived in glamorously wild places ...

Merely an Empire

David Thomson: Eighteen Hours in Vietnam, 21 September 2017

The Vietnam War 
directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.
PBS, ten episodes
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... he has a white-bearded hawk of a face, with the clear eyes of a fighter pilot. He made me think of James Salter and his code of taciturn manliness.But then you meet another witness who explains the big gap between ordering the death of your enemy from 15,000 feet and being in the dark in a Viet Cong tunnel. This is ...


Graham Hough, 7 October 1982

Thomas Hardy: A Biography 
by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 637 pp., £15, June 1982, 0 19 211725 4
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The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Vol. III: 1902-1908 
edited by Richard Purdy and Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 367 pp., £19.50, July 1982, 0 19 812620 4
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The Neglected Hardy: Thomas Hardy’s Lesser Novels 
by Richard Taylor.
Macmillan, 202 pp., £17.50, May 1982, 0 333 31051 9
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Good Little Thomas Hardy 
by C.H. Salter.
Macmillan, 200 pp., £15, August 1982, 0 333 29387 8
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Thomas Hardy and Women: Sexual Ideology and Narrative Form 
by Penny Boumelha.
Harvester, 178 pp., £18.95, April 1982, 0 7108 0018 5
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Illustration and the Novels of Thomas Hardy 
by Arlene Jackson.
Macmillan, 151 pp., £15, October 1981, 0 333 32303 3
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... see the tragic Hardy, the ideological Hardy, in better perspective. This is also the aim of C.H. Salter’s Good Little Thomas Hardy – but fulfilled in a very different spirit. The offensive title of this book is taken from a letter of Henry James. What right had James to patronise ...

A Bloody Stupid Idea

James Butler: Landlord’s Paradise, 6 May 2021

Red Metropolis: Socialism and the Government of London 
by Owen Hatherley.
Repeater, 264 pp., £10.99, November 2020, 978 1 913462 20 8
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... the buildings and most of the planting were the doing of Bermondsey’s mayor in the 1920s, Ada Salter, and her husband, Alfred, first a GP in the area and then its MP.Dr Salter is remembered by a sculpture near the riverfront, Ada in the name of a garden and an initiative inspired by her insistence on the right of all to ...

He’s Bad, She’s Mad

Mary Hannity: HMP Holloway, 9 May 2019

Bad Girls: The Rebels and Renegades of Holloway Prison 
by Caitlin Davies.
John Murray, 373 pp., £10.99, February 2019, 978 1 4736 4776 3
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... On 26 September​ 1849 the lord mayor of London, Sir James Duke, laid the foundation stone for the new City House of Correction at Holloway. The land had been intended for use as a burial ground for victims of the recent cholera epidemic, but the epidemic had subsided, and the anticipated dead had not arrived. ‘May God preserve the City of London/And make this place a terror to evil-doers,’ the foundation stone read ...

The Shock of the Pretty

James Meek: Seventy Hours with Don Draper, 9 April 2015

... through consumption and a white, white Christmas: even if you’ve never read Yates or Cheever or Salter, generations of cinematic art, from Hitchcock to Lynch, have prepared you for the nastiness below the surface of stuff like this. You assume there’s a dark underbelly, and there is. Betty is on her second marriage. She broke with her previous ...

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