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Burning the Days: Recollection

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  479 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
In this brilliant book of recollection, one of America's finest writers re-creates people, places, and events spanning some fifty years, bringing to life an entire era through one man's sensibility. Scenes of love and desire, friendship, ambition, life in foreign cities and New York, are unforgettably rendered here in the unique style for which James Salter is widely admir ...more
ebook, 400 pages
Published February 16th 2011 by Vintage (first published August 19th 1997)
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Nov 17, 2011 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shouldreread
“The difficulty, [Irwin Shaw] had told me at one point, was that I was a lyric and he a narrative writer.” If to no other book of Salter’s, Shaw’s description applies to Burning the Days, a loose, rambling “recollection” composed in fits and starts, accreted over many years. Salter’s glory is the anecdote, the stray, sketched memory, his way with a line.

The city was black and gleaming, wonderfully cold.

I think I will come to appreciate Burning the Days as I do Edmund White’s The Farewell Sympho
Apr 09, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A colleague got me reading novels again after a long period by recommending "The Hunters." Not long afterward, I was reading "Solo Faces," stunned in both cases by Salter's crystal clear prose and the wrestling with themes of personal integrity. It has taken me a while to get round to his memoir "Burning the Days," which I found myself gulping down in two days and one long night of a holiday weekend. It has been a revelation.

Salter's novels are case studies of what I'd call male mythology. The h
Jun 12, 2008 Doria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once more, I am reading a book that I picked up initially on the recommendation of my late grandparents' journal entries. And once more, I have found a winner. This is a tremendously well-written book, and I say that not merely because Salter describes my grandfather (Robert Phelps) with such tender affection towards the end of the book that it brought me to tears. Salter's writing is intimate, prescient and reverent; he holds me in thrall with his words, so that the twin chasms of time and phys ...more
Mar 04, 2015 Bert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Salter is totally one of the greats and can do something almost mystical with words that very few writers ever could, but i can't say i loved this. Maybe my fault, no one wants to play the blame game, but possibly Salter forgot to put any sense of his own personality in his recollections, his style is so elegant it almost erases the warts and dirt of the author, the fun stuff. These reminiscences end up being more like portraits of people he's known along the way, and a lot ot them seem kinda lu ...more
Jan 06, 2016 Abby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
“I wake in the darkness and lie there. The aftertaste is not bitter. I know, just as in dreams, I will die, like every living thing, many of them noble and important, trees, lakes, great fish that have lived for a hundred years. We live in the consciousness of a single self, but in nature there seems to be something else, the consciousness of many, of all, the herds and schools, the colonies and hives with myriads lacking in what we call ego but otherwise perfect, responsive only to instinct. Ou ...more
Jun 13, 2013 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
James Salter is (I have described him this way before) an unsung hero of American literature. What a life.
He has led (is leading) the kind of life I want. Pursuing passion, strong and vibrant friendships, love, travel, elegance, and writing.
Salter is often praised for his sentences. This is as it should be. My disjointed, haphazard review is not (I want to say "not worthy" but that feels pretentious) my review is lacking. Let's leave it at that.
This memoir left me aching, wanting to experience
Jun 21, 2013 Ellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Salter writes beautifully, but I wasn't always in love with his life: too many days and nights spent drinking and carousing, and too many attachments and adulterous relationships with predatory women as well as a love of celebrity in general. I most enjoyed reading about the interesting writers he knew well. Most of the first half of the book was devoted to his time at West Point (interesting) and as a pilot in the Air Force. I enjoyed the first 75 pages of that, but then wearied of so much desc ...more
Brent Legault
Jun 11, 2013 Brent Legault rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sure, I'm reading Salter. Who isn't these days? Why should I be any different? He's good. He's quiet and powerful. He would make for an interesting drinking companion. Not for me, but for someone who has done lively, bold things. His writing is solid, but the sudden rush of laurels is a bit much. Too little, too late for Salter, no doubt. Too obviously apologetic to take seriously. There should have always been a high flame of regard for him. Not these years of barely glowing embers followed by ...more
Jason Bergman
Jul 13, 2014 Jason Bergman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful, unconventional sort of autobiography. It's subtitled, "a recollection" and that's an accurate description. Salter leaps around in time, telling the complete stories of people he meets. Partially due to his colorful life, and partially due to its length, this typically means we find out how everyone dies. Which is a little sad, but you get used to it.

Burning the Days is effectively divided into four parts: his early life in New York, his days as a fighter pilot, his time as a screenw
I enjoyed Mr. Salter's writing. What I had a hard time with was the time line. One paragraph he would be talking about 1962, the next paragraph was about 1976 and the next page 1954. Part I worked better than Part II. The chapters ran about 30 pages and it was essential to read a full chapter at a time. There was no way to read half a dozen pages and come back and remember what was happening. Unfortunately Part II several chapters ran 50+ pages. In any case, Mr. Salter has lived an astonishing l ...more
Paul Jellinek
Disappointingly dull and pedestrian for a writer of Salter's stature. If I remember correctly, there was something in the forward about his reluctance to write a memoir, and it appears that his instincts were correct.
Jun 26, 2013 Rafa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
¿Por qué llaman autobiografía a un libro en el que hablan mucho más a los que han conocido, que a ellos mismos? Solo me intersó el último capítulo.
Salter's autobiography.

p. x In the past I have written about gods and have sometimes done that here. It seems to be an inclination. I do not worship gods but I like to know they are there. Frailty, human though it may be, interests me less. So I have written only about certain things, the essential, in my view. The rest is banal.

4 It is difficult to realize that you are observed from a number of points and the sum of them has validity.

25 (prep school) Horace Mann, was in Riverdale...the overrid
Roderick Hart
Aug 09, 2013 Roderick Hart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the autobiography of James Salter. He went to West Point, mainly because his father had before him, became a fighter pilot and flew missions in many places, including the US, France, North Africa and in Korea during the Korean War. Later he worked in the film industry and wrote stories and novels.

His descriptions of learning to fly and his experiences as a fighter pilot are outstanding. He remembers many fellow flyers, their characters and idiosyncrasies. Some survived, others did not.

Dec 07, 2013 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
James Salter calls his memoir a "recollection" as it is more a collection of scenes and episodes selected from throughout his life than it is a typical memoir. Published in 1997 when he was a youthful seventy-two it includes some fascinating vignettes of youth, middle age and beyond, all told with his signature narrative style that is both precise and beautiful.
Several of these episodes were particularly memorable in my reading. He grew up in New York City. But he tells of an unexpected sojourn
Aug 31, 2014 Sabine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Also das ist wirklich ein tolles Stück feiner und sehr guter Literatur. Für dieses Buch habe ich zwar ein bisserl länger gebraucht, aber es hat sich wirklich ausgezahlt. In einem Interview mit der von mir hochgeschätzten Kate Mulgrew (sie liest unheimlich gerne und viel)erwähnte sie James Salter und da wurde ich auf ihn aufmerksam. Das bewegte und spannende Leben von James Salter hat mich wirklich neugierig gemacht - neugierig auf mehr von diesem tollen Autor.
Grant Faulkner
Well, I'm a bit biased since I like Salter's short stories so much. This was the book I read when I had pneumonia, and it was a good one to fade in and out of. I find that I don't have to concentrate so much with memoirs or biographies, but just pay attention to the juicy parts--and Salter could have supplied more juicy parts given the number of affairs he hinted at.

The thing that fascinates me about Salter is that he was in the military, even if it was sort of an accident. He's such a sensitive
Kate Buford
Jan 14, 2016 Kate Buford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though I gobbled this up, by the end it seemed thin and disorganized. There were, of course, this being Salter, page-stopping sentences and insights and descriptions, but it felt hurried and lacked the elegance of theme and structure he usually has. The descriptions of flying, as a pilot, are amazing.
Paul Blaney
May 15, 2013 Paul Blaney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Impressionistic and minimal are the words that come to mind. Occasionally, rather too much so. But also wonderfully well-written. No bullshit.

Two quotes I liked from near the end: The only things that are important in life are those you remember, Jean Renoir; and: Auden's, We are put here to make.

The memoir's structure breaks down after early chapters on his New York upbringing, education at West Point, his time as an air force pilot. Towards the end, it's mostly just character portraits: famous
Nov 30, 2010 Thom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is really two books. The first half is about Salter's military career, first as a second-generation cadet at West Point and then as a pilot during the Korean war. That part of the book is excellent--easily four or five stars. There aren't enough books about the exaltation of learning to be good at a job. This is one of them. The job is being a military pilot and officer.

The second half of the book is made up of literary reminiscences. These are about writers and editors he knew and about th
Aug 23, 2015 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this hard going. It is beautifully written. However, after The Hunters, I wanted to read about Salters life, but this just seems to be a collection of names and episodes.

After reading Cassada, I was inspired to go back and reread the first half of Burning The Days, and I loved it. I realised that the things I didn't like about the book (in the original review above) were all in the 2nd half, the account of his later life. The first half is stunning.
Julio Reyes
Jun 27, 2015 Julio Reyes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Contar la vida con el oficio del novelista. Elegir las historias, el tono; pero verse superado por ciertos recuerdos, pero especialmente, que no se trate de un final.
Mar 30, 2013 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir

This memoir is divided into two parts. Part one was truly stunning. As the Washington Post says, Salter "can, when he wants, break your heart with a sentence". And he did, many a time. I found myself folding page corners to mark amazing passages. The second part explores his life as a writer in hollywood and felt kind of oddly name droppish, and was a let down after the brilliance of the first part. Thus my qualified 4 star rating instead of the 5. Regardless, Part I is well worth the price of a
Aug 20, 2015 Geert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Allesomvattende memoires, iedereen zou dit boek minstens 1 maal moeten lezen.
Lance Contrucci
Aug 22, 2014 Lance Contrucci rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was bored. Maybe should have stuck with it.
Sep 13, 2015 Christian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Burning the days is a fantastic book, and it is written in a sublimely elegant prose. It tells of Salters life. A life lived to the full; and an epicurean tour de force. Where else do you meet a writer who first flew fighter jets in Korea. Who later lived with the intellectual elites (and the beautiful women) in New York, Rome and Paris. And who spent years as a screen writer in Hollywood, while writing amazing books like "A sort and a pastime" and "Light years" along the way.
Eeuwig zonde dat uitgeverij De Bezige Bij het niet aandurfde om Salters biografie opnieuw te laten vertalen. De eerdere vertaling haalt het niet bij zijn twee recent vertaalde romans. Waarom? Deze vertaling zit vol formele woorden en woordherhalingen. Dat is niet zo erg bij een vertaalde thriller. Gaat een Nederlandse vertaalster slordig om met het werk van een meester op het gebied van stijl dan is dat eeuwig zonde.
Sé muchas cosas sobre la vida de mi padre --aunque no conozco la casa donde vivió de niño ni el colegio al que asistió--, pero casi nada sobre la de mi abuelo. (...) Apenas recuerdo al abuelo. Lo que el sabía, lo que cualquier de ellos sabía, se ha perdido. Es posible que me hayan llegado unos pocos retazos de lo que significaron sus vidas, pero las cosas de verdad, el espíritu y el carácter, las ambiciones, la relaciones matrimoniales, las dificultades, la suerte de los amigos, de todo eso no c ...more
Oct 19, 2013 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a memoir - beautifully written and a fascinating life. The author was on airplanes in WW II, he was a screenwriter for movies, he had encounters with fascinating people - it was well worth reading. I was reading this, at one point, while in the class at Collegeville and I could see so many examples of what our teacher was talking about in his writing! It was another picture into a life I can just imagine - or enter through such stories. I’m very glad I read this book.
James Salter is a beautiful writer, which is what kept me going on this memoir, recollections of his life as a military pilot at the end of WWII and through the Korean War and beyond. He really kept me with him on his brash,dangerous and breathtaking exploits. He describes an almost James Bond life and befriends many well-known writers and others all over the world. Lots of carousing, women and booze, too, which was far less enchanting. His language is lovely.
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James Salter (1925 - 2015) was a novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter. Salter grew up in New York City and was a career officer and Air Force pilot until his mid-thirties, when the success of his first novel (The Hunters, 1957) led to a fulltime writing career. Salter’s potent, lyrical prose earned him acclaim from critics, readers, and fellow novelists. His novel A Sport and a Pastime ( ...more
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“Sometimes you are aware when your great moments are happening, and sometimes they rise from the past. Perhaps it's the same with people.” 51 likes
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