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A Sport and a Pastime

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  7,651 ratings  ·  936 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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Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,651 ratings  ·  936 reviews

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Apr 05, 2008 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
How rare is it to find exquisite, naked-as-a-jaybird, hot-as-Hades, life affirming sex scenes in a book of lit-fic? I'll tell you: very rare. It pretty much never happens.

It happened here. Although I'm starting to feel like it was all a dream. Like I'm going to wake up after I write this review, open the book, and find reams of pages about auto manufacturing, or people in lab coats saying "genitals" over and over while indicating to a medical diagram. (In other words, very NOT sexy things.)

I'm n
4.5 stars

"Certain things I remember exactly as they were. They are merely discolored a bit by time, like coins in the pocket of a forgotten suit. Most of the details, though, have long since been transformed or rearranged to bring others of them forward. Some, in fact, are obviously counterfeit; they are no less important. One alters the past to form the future. But there is a real significance to the pattern which finally appears, which resists all further change."

A Sport and a Pastime is the p
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Cecily by: Gisela
Remember that the life of this world is but a sport and a pastime, and the life of the Hereafter is far better for those who seek to ward off their ruin.
Quran 6 : 32 (Al-An'am)

A phrase from the Islamic holy book is the title of this very secular story. That is one of several unsettling mysteries. Both explore the importance of truth in fragmentary ways, and both expect the reader to trust an omniscience: always watching, noting... judging. But I think they probably reach opposite conclusions
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: set-in-france
A sport and a pastime is a pretty good definition of how a certain kind of man treats women in relationships. This is a brilliant, probing and very subtle depiction of the relationship between a rich American boy and a poor French girl without prospects. The subtlety with which Salter writes means you're never quite sure if Dean loves Ann-Marie or is abusing her. No matter how well he treats her we never quite trust his commitment, and this makes Ann-Marie a tremendously sympathetic character. I ...more
Well, hell.

Give me a minute here, people. Give me a minute while I light my cigarette with my shaky hands, take a load off my mind, too.


For a lady who is determined to find literary smut and is so often disappointed, I've got to tell you . . . I'm spent.

I'm exhausted.

I'm blowing smoke right. . . in. . . your. . . face.

This James Salter. . . he took me places, took me places all right.

He not only proved me wrong about the existence of literary smut. . . he went even further. . . went and
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Stylists
Recommended to Dolors by: Katie
Shelves: read-in-2019
Americans in France. A summer that never ends, a delightful treat for all the senses, a place where eroticism and youth blend naturally with the slow rhythm of a life enjoyed to the core. Paradise redoubled. Or is it?

The nameless narrator of this atemporal story arrives at Autun, a bucolic town in the Bourgogne region, far from the influence of hectic Paris. The landscape he observes through the window of the train car is described in mechanical cadence, similar to the background noise of wheels
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Mar 15, 2014 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
Exquisite writing, “sophisticated” someone called it, very erotic. The pages fly by; I don’t even remember turning them. In my mind it’s a modern classic.
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, tha
Jul 30, 2014 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 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
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: penises
Shelves: smut, 2016, dick-lit, hot-sex
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 06, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I (obviously) have never read Fifty Shades of Grey but I imagine it will be much like this one; gratuitous and meaningless.

It’s not like I think anal sex shouldn’t be a theme for a novel. No! Anal sex is a subject matter like any other one, I guess, but this was just too repetitive and over the top for my liking. Basically a pain in the ass.

What kind of audience was Salter trying to please when he came up with this thing is something I will never understand, being middle 20th century desperate
Dec 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, fiction
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
Jul 12, 2007 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.
Steven Godin
Jun 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: america, fiction, paris
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
I have mixed feelings about A Sport and a Pastime. I'll try to express them here, although I'm sporting a headache and am not really in the mood to write a review.

I came across this novel and its author only three days ago, through a GR friend's raving review. The literary raunchiness intrigued me, so I promptly borrowed it from my local library.

The good bits:
- I love the cover and the title;
- I loved the French setting, beautifully described by Salter, especially the drub, wet and dark winter
Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wow, I really liked this.

It is not going to be for everybody. The book is sexually explicit, but not in a crude way. The sex, as it is presented, is not perverted. There are many pages describing plain good, good sex. Such is not going to fit everybody's taste. I was little aware the book would be as steamy as it turned out to be! This is a book for adults.

Yet, and this is essential, I would not classify this as erotica. Erotica is usually written for the sole purpose of sexual arousal. There
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
This book is very strange.

It is very, very well written. The prose is economical, yet very evocative, almost cinematic. You can see exactly what James Salter wants you to see, and he wants you to see some rather specific and intimate thing. There is a lot to unpack there, about the nature of desire, intimacy, longing, escape... But it will leave you with more questions than answers.

The narrator is as unreliable as they make it. Is anything he is telling us real, or is he making it all up? He mig
Aug 29, 2015 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
Dec 02, 2007 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
Sheridan Hopkins
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I thought when I started reading this book it would be disappointing because of the boring sex obsessed bits. But in its context and with the strange voyeuristic descriptions by his friend/ older self it is quite an amazing read. You have insight into the fickleness of the young man and his fraudulent behaviour and the sad situation of the lower class girl. As usual Salter writes beautifully and that takes you on their journey. In its day, with out a fairy tale ending and the obsessiveness of th ...more
Vit Babenco
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"This blue, indolent town. Its cats. Its pale sky. The empty sky of morning, drained and pure. Its deep, cloven streets. Its narrow courts, the faint, rotten odor within, orange peels lying in the corners. The uneven curbstones, their edges worn away. A town of doctors, all with large houses".
The style is purely photographic and the story is absolutely lucid. It's a great tale of passion and fate.
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
A Sport and a Pastime has at least three things going for it from my standpoint: it’s by James Salter, whom I like; it’s set in France which I love; and then of course there is the sex. If there exists a work of literature in English as well regarded as this book is, which has more sex in it, I am not aware of it. Salter’s writing is somewhat like Hemingway’s but without the bluster and self-promotion. Maybe I should have given it a five star rating; I'll think about it over the next week or so. ...more
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was ok

So the good news is, Salter can really write. The bad news is, he writes boring, repetitive, self-indulgent and decidedly un-arousing prose about imagining anal sex with someone else's French (and therefore sexually liberal) girlfriend.

In a way it's not unlike the GK Chesterton problem: a colossal misuse of literary skill.

My advice: read the first 30-40 pages, close the book, get rid of it even, congratulate yourself on not spoiling your experience of some of the finest prose you've ever
Daniel Villines
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
A Sport and a Pastime is not a typical novel and it’s best if one knows that from the first page. To start, it’s a bit of a travelogue covering life in Paris, the French countryside, and the small towns located in the heart of France. The book creates a mood that one would feel if the reader was actually there. The seasons, weather, roads, and dwellings all play a part.

The book is also erotic, but the eroticism has a purpose. It's intended to give the full depth of the human relationship between
Jun 13, 2012 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
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
April 1967 Birthday Read

"Remember that the life of this world is but a sport and a pastime..." Koran, LVII 19

Who would have thought this book's title came from the Koran?!

This short novel which circles around an erotic love affair is basically sex, sex, and more sex. The story itself I found just okay, but the writing!!! The sentences!!

"He no longer lives in years; he is down to seasons."

"Around her neck there are festoons of glass beads the color of nightclub kisses."

"I wander the city like a
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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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