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A Sport and a Pastime

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  5,496 Ratings  ·  685 Reviews
"As nearly perfect as any American fiction I know," is how Reynolds Price (The New York Times) described this classic that has been a favorite of readers, both here and in Europe, for almost forty years. Set in provincial France in the 1960s, it is the intensely carnal story—part shocking reality, part feverish dream —of a love affair between a footloose Yale dropout and a ...more
Paperback, 185 pages
Published August 22nd 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1967)
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Apr 05, 2008 Libby rated it really liked it
First of all, this star system aggrieves me. When I hover my cursor over the stars I learn that 3 stars indicates "I liked it" and 4 stars indicates "I really liked it" etc. "Liking" has nothing to do with my sense of this novel, and in fact, isn't even germane in this instance. I didn't like this novel. I still think it's rather amazing.

This novel feels dated in its subject matter, and is beset with passages of casual racism and sexual imperialism that are repugnant to me. The story opens in 19
Mar 15, 2014 Algernon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2014
Some books I hear about through the loudspeakers of popular opinion (Harry Potter, Twilight, The Book Thief). Others are classics everybody has heard about (A Farewell to Arms, Les Miserables). Genre books I discover in dedicated forums and recently my wishlist is growing exponentially through Goodreads recommendations. But I always hold a special place on my shelves for the books I discover accidentally, like impulse buys in second hand bookstores that turn out to be personal favorites. A Spor ...more
mark monday
He hasn't the strength to dream, or rather, his dreams take place while he is awake and they are marvelous for at least one quality: he has the power to prolong them.
he has a dream of France. wintry and grey, rain and empty streets. he has a dream of a younger version of himself, handsome and aloof, virile. a tabula rasa of sorts. he can project himself onto that blank slate, into a story that he has made, and he does; but it is not his, not really. it is his dream version of that story, that
Jul 30, 2014 Matt rated it liked it
Shelves: classic-novels
When I came across Esquire’s “80 Books Every Man Should Read,” there was no way in hell I wasn’t going to read it. First, I – like most people on the internet – am partial to listicles. Articles are nice, but lists appeal to the part of my brain eroded by…what was I talking about? Second, I love books. That is, after all, why I am here, on this website. And third – I am a man. Beards! Flannel! Emotional reticence! The combination felt like it’d been written specifically for me.

That’s how I came
Nov 01, 2011 knig rated it it was ok
Shelves: really-bad-sex
Lets stop beating about the bush here. To be crystal clear: Men CANNOT write about sex. (They probably don’t even understand it). When they do write about sex, it is only other men who might find it remotely plausible, let alone satisfying. Exciting doesn’t even come into it. This is officially the last book I am reading on the subject written by a man.

How bad can it be? Here is a little snippet (from 200 pages worth of similar delectable delights). Our hero, one Phillip Dean, is gallivanting ro
Jul 12, 2007 Chrissie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
absolutely some of the most beautiful prose ever. seriously. i'm now a james salter devotee.

i'm glad i never had to read this book in a school setting because it's the kind of book that would be completely spoiled by literary analysis. "what phallic symbolism lies in the car?" "who is the narrator?" "how does the imvaginazation of the anus figure into the narrator's detachment from modern society?" blah. blah. BLAH. pick this up and let the language take you. forget the rest.
Dec 06, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2016
On the floor her shoes have fallen over. Her dress has been tossed on a chair…There is her washcloth, sewn in the shape of a glove. Her cosmetics. Her comb. The box where her savings lie hidden. Oh, Anne-Marie, your existence is so pure. You have your poor childhood, postcards from the boys in St. Leger, your stepfather, your despair. Nothing can affect you, no revelation, no crime. You are like a sad story, like leaves in the street. You repeat yourself like a song.

I finished this book last nig
NickD’s indictment needs no additional count, so I will only register this novel’s activation of a collegiate boredom, a tedium I associate with a curricular corpus of films—mostly French, half-remembered, all untitled—in which chance couplings play out in an atmosphere of languorous tension and momentous triviality, silences and shrugged ouis. But, much like the boredom of those films, the boredom of Dean and Anne-Marie’s liaison (as distinct from the narrator’s other activities, inventions and ...more
Dec 02, 2007 Xio rated it really liked it
Shelves: booksfrommy30s

Holy cow, I just finished this over lunch and am struggling with the attempt to actually stay here at work and not just run out into the streets to find a glass of wine and a ticket to europe or somewhere--anywhere else and wear dresses and heels and find lovers in dark corners of dancehalls and...sigh...

One of the finest endings in a novel I've had the pleasure to encounter.

LK made a reference to 'On the Road' and I of course was immediately thinking of Fitzgerald. My mind dwells in details, m
Aug 29, 2015 Gary rated it liked it
With its implausible narrative, one-dimensional characters, and gratuitous sex, I wasn't impressed with James Salter's A Sport and a Pastime (1967). Set in 1960s Autun, France, this minor novel tells the story of a Yale drop-out, Philip Dean, and a 19-year-old French girl, Anne-Marie, as witnessed by an unnamed narrator, a 34-year-old photographer living in France. The narrator acknowledges that much of his story (including graphic sex) is in fact drawn from his own voyeuristic fantasies of the ...more
Apr 29, 2013 Alex rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: penises
Shelves: smut, 2016, 2016-bingo
A few years ago Esquire published a list of 80 books every man should read that was so hilariously penis-centric that even they admitted it. Here's the apotheosis of that list, a book firmly in the Miller / Bukowski tradition of young men taking their penises very seriously, a book where most of the suspense is "Will this dude's girlfriend let him try butt stuff?"

Spoiler: (view spoiler)

There's something going on here, though. The dude mentioned above is Dean, who drives a lo
Jun 13, 2012 Jenna rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
When I was twenty-five pages away from finishing this book, I started planning out what I would say in my Goodreads review. I decided I wanted to say something admiring and yet faintly critical, such as "A languidly paced love story, written in immaculately finished prose." I planned to touch upon my mixed feelings toward Salter's use of an unreliable narrator: Nick Carraway's antithesis, a rather pathetic would-be photographer in his mid-thirties, a defiant voyeur and obsessive confabulator who ...more
Michael Meeuwis
Oct 06, 2013 Michael Meeuwis rated it it was ok
I'd heard this one praised to this stars, but I found it ridiculous. I think I'm constitutionally unable to take sex--or, sorry, Sex--as seriously as this book does: "As his [redacted] goes into her, he discovers the world." (Apparently her vagina is Buddhism?) Some genuinely ugly business about race around the edges, too: "Eighteen, and a n[*****] for a boyfriend." Anyway, the narrator recounts (imagines?) an affair between Dean, a Yalie, and Anne-Marie, his lissome, personality-less French fuc ...more
Erik Evenson
Jun 26, 2009 Erik Evenson rated it it was amazing
Eleven pages into A Sport and a Pastime, the unnamed narrator throws us a curveball: "None of this is true," he says. "I am only putting down details which entered me, fragments that were able to part my flesh." From that point on, I found myself reading with squinted eyes. The lies would be revealing. None more so than the observation/creation by the narrator of the 24-year old Yale dropout, Phillip Dean, one half of the couple that copulates incessantly throughout the book. Phillip occasionall ...more
Dec 29, 2012 Keith rated it it was amazing

Picking up James Salter's A Sport and a Pastime (1966) rang several soft bells in my mind. I know that at some point in the dim and distant past I had read an essay or review that celebrated his incredible talent. This talent is to be discovered in a small shelf of novels, essays and short stories. Of his five novels Salter has publicly stated that only A Sport and a Pastime has come close to living up to his standards. Despite his small output and his own criticism of it Salter is revered amo
Jul 30, 2015 Allan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first experience of the recently deceased James Salter, who I have been meaning to read for a long time, the writer having been lauded by critics for many years. This novel is seen by many as the entry point to his work, and at 191 pages fitted the bill as a seemingly short read. I ended up reading the book twice, back to back, because I wasn't exactly sure what I thought of it the first time. The extra time invested was definitely worth it.

The novel is narrated by an unnamed charact
Steven  Godin
Jun 25, 2016 Steven Godin rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, american, amour
I regard James Salter's 'Light Years' as one from a small number of books that is destined to journey with me into the next life, so was expecting an elegant and poetic approach through this, which it did deliver early on as the detailed descriptions were stunning, however when the term 'erotic realism' was used as the fundamental core of the content alarm bells started ringing for me, but at least the setting was spot on, with the backdrop of Paris and provincial France providing a sensual para ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
He has a name for the aggressive part of the male genitalia: prick. But he has no name for that of the female's. So for once every five pages or so would come his friend Dean's prick , hard once more, joyously being inserted again between her legs. Something seemingly unnamable between her legs. Maybe he didn't know what that thing is called. Or maybe he had his mother with him as he wrote this, constantly peering over his shoulder, plying him with coffee and biscuits and massaging his back whil ...more
Jul 24, 2010 Nick rated it did not like it
Salter's novel, at the distance of so many decades, is clearly well-loved, deemed worthy of a Modern Library edition. One can see why: this novel must in the sixties have seemed like a breath of fresh air, with its Parisian setting, shifting point of view, its elegant, slippery prose, its variety of sexual encounters along the course of an affair. Perhaps it was path-breaking in its day, but at this juncture its lovers seem acrobatic but not well-characterized. And the pacing is rickety -- the n ...more
Мартин Касабов
Игра и забава: Еротичният роман, който няма да ви е срам да четете

Не си спомням какво очаквах, когато започнах да чета "Игра и забава" на Джеймс Солтър. Може би нищо. Може би очаквах, че няма да ми хареса и ще я хвърля на купчината с изоставени книги. Изглеждаше като еротичен роман, занимаващ се с поредната авантюра на американец във Франция. И книгата донякъде е точно това, но за пореден път осъзнавам колко е важен стилът и подходът към даден материал. На този свят можеш да пишеш за каквото си
M.L. Rudolph
Sep 18, 2011 M.L. Rudolph rated it liked it
1967. Tender story, beautifully narrated of a privileged young expatriate American's passionate and sensual love affair with an eighteen year-old French woman.

The unreliable narrator is older, 34, and meets Phillip Dean, a Yalie on sabbatical at a pension(?) in the town of Autun. But, the narrator tells us, "None of this is true. I've said Autun, but it could easily have been Auxerre." And he reminds us periodically that though there may be elements of truth to the tale, he made much of it up fo
Jun 01, 2013 Carbon rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 12, 2007 Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: men trying to convince women to reconsider the notion that their lowest orifice is a one-way street
I just finished this and the aubible sound my mouth made was "wow". I trust that unconscious audible reaction, and am amazed when I hear it, how pure it is, all that's needed for an honest review. Fantastic sentences. France. Like "On the Road," complete with a male writer's man crush on a mythic Dean, but by proper Yale grad/GI instead of Beat athlete. A page of dated rascism makes it a period piece, as do some classist/sexist passages, but the luscious, lascivious, lovingly rendered buggery de ...more
Nov 30, 2009 Ken rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jesuachristo, the prose! More than any other writer I have read, Salter could do so much with so little. He has a scalpel-like precision with his prose – it is always just enough, nothing more. Quite a few writers should read Salter if for no other reason than studying how a few simply crafted sentences can say more than endless flowery paragraphs that serve more as literary gymnastics than good writing. The opening chapters of A Sport and a Pastime, where the narrator is travelling via train th ...more
Nov 29, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it
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 w
Jim Coughenour
Jul 23, 2011 Jim Coughenour rated it liked it
Shelves: european-fiction
Spurred by a strand of adulation I read somewhere, I ordered A Sport and a Pastime, a sex idyll set in a French village. Apparently this novel caused something of a stir in 1967, with its precious prose, redolent of novels which use words like "redolent" and its reverent obsession with the minutiae of making love. And before I say anything else, I'll acknowledge that it does cast a certain golden spell. I read it this week mostly on the train back and forth from work; it caught me up immediately ...more
Aug 19, 2015 Ken rated it liked it
Shelves: finished-in-2015
One must have heroes, which is to say, one must create them. And they become real through our envy, our devotion. It is we who give them their majesty, their power, which we ourselves could never possess. And in turn, they give some back. But they are mortal, these heroes, just as we were. They do not last forever. They fade. They vanish.

Thus spake the first-person narrator in a book where 1st and 3rd person POV blend so unnaturally that the reader is put on alert. Check Salter's words above. Th
Andrew Schirmer
Apr 18, 2013 Andrew Schirmer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oddly enough, Salter's erotic classic reminded me of nothing so much as Victor Segalen's René Leys--the idea of getting at the heart of a country by fucking one of its inhabitants--except for the fact that Salter's Philip Dean is nearly completely lacking in curiosity. Segalen's protagonists are insatiable in their desire to penetrate, to get to the heart of China. In some ways, the narration and descriptions of the small towns are a gauzy cinematic tribute to France, but the attitude of the pro ...more
Nov 28, 2014 Will rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You have to love a novel that renders vaginal penetration as, "He introduced himself."
Apr 09, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing
Like Salter's other novels, this book is a study in hero worship. Here the hero is not a fighter pilot ("The Hunters") or an alpine mountain climber ("Solo Faces") but a lover, whose intensely erotic affair with a young French woman is imagined by the novel's narrator, a casual friend who scarcely knows him. Phillip Dean (like a real-life counterpart James Dean) is in his twenties, good looking, intelligent, and with a fatal attraction to fast cars. (Dean Moriarty of Kerouac's "On the Road" also ...more
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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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“One should not believe too strongly in a life which can easily vanish.” 22 likes
“As I look back, I see that life is like a game of solitaire and every once in a while there is a move.” 20 likes
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