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All That Is

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  7,187 ratings  ·  1,141 reviews
An extraordinary literary event, a major new novel by the PEN/Faulkner winner and acclaimed master: a sweeping, seductive, deeply moving story set in the years after World War II.

From his experiences as a naval officer in battles off Okinawa during World War II, Philip Bowman returns to America and finds a position as a book editor. It was a time when publishing was still
Hardcover, 290 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Knopf (first published 2013)
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T I can see how it might be a difficult read as dialogue does tend to run on at times, like many other books I've read/listened to. However, in audio bo…moreI can see how it might be a difficult read as dialogue does tend to run on at times, like many other books I've read/listened to. However, in audio book form everything said seems so eloquently put, esp. with Joe Barrett's voice. I've just finished my second listen in a year, and look forward to more audio books from this team.(less)

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Average rating 3.36  · 
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 ·  7,187 ratings  ·  1,141 reviews

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Richard Hensley
Jun 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
I found this book deeply annoying, mostly for its embedded misogyny but also for its dull protagonist and narrative torpor. The perspective drifts frequently; we enter the thoughts of more than a dozen minor characters but never any of the protagonist’s women, except for a few paragraphs late in the book when one of them is moved to cheat on him. Each girlfriend's point of view is absent, presumably because, as the protagonist’s mother says of his first wife, she has no soul.

The prose is good b
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
the slow profound rhythm began, hardly varying but as time passed somehow more and more intense ... she was trembling like a tree about to fall ...
"I married the wrong man", she said.

... and if you marry this book, I believe it's more likely to last, the older you are.

James Salter

James Salter has been called a “writer’s writer”, the “finest craftsman of the American sentence”. And yet before reading of him in The New Yorker earlier this year (an article probably occasioned by the publication of
Diane Meier
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The people who review 'All That Is' as though they expect to find "all things fair and proper," are missing the point about Salter. Think of hims as a painter - Like Degas or Vermeer - and you'll find the path.

I was lucky enough to hear him interviewed on Thursday night at the Irish Art Center, and suddenly - it was clear. He means to paint portraits of the lives around him. Not his point of view. Not what he wishes might be there. Not what the world needs for fairness. Just what he sees. And i
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: set-in-the-us
I've read a lot of James Salter recently and this probably is my least favourite. The writing here on the whole is less inspired than in his other books. And there's not much plot. It's an attempt to narrate the life of one man throughout his adult life (his childhood is mysteriously omitted). Bowman, the hero, is a New York editor and the novel is a series of meetings with privileged individuals who will influence his life. There are lots of parties and lots of flirting. Often Salter delves mom ...more
Joe Szczepaniak
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
Having read this book in short order, I took some time afterward to let it wash over--certain I had missed something. Is the grand statement embedded in the title: All That Is? Is this dull cycle of lust, bordeom, and betrayal all that there is in life? If that's the message, then Salter is a bit late to the party. Nihilism has been explored ad nauseum, and we don't need another book with nothing new to say on the subject. But perhaps I missed something.

I felt that Bowman, our main character--fl
Boris Feldman
Apr 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
I forced myself to finish this book. True, for the last 30% or so, I flipped the digital pages quickly. I was determined to reach the end to see why, oh why, Amazon chose it as a Best Book of the Month and the blurbers raved. (Why do the blurbers rave?)

I admit that the language is often well-done. The sample that I downloaded, the first pages, were fine.

But it is a novel devoid of plot. It is a pointless pastiche of vignettes about the protagonist's empty sexual conquests and the vacuity of his
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A look back to another time, from the 1945 end of World War Two into the 1970s before the twin movements of anti-establishment youth culture and first wave feminism changed everything. Salter clearly looks back fondly on this time but it is as a time that is gone forever and now seems like an alien culture.

In the hands of a lesser writer this tale of culture, class, power and wealth would be a miserable failure. Salter is often defined, in an almost obligatory fashion, as a "writer's writer." I
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
Oh how I wanted to love thee...

It's a little cruel to have to choose how many stars to give this book. My heart was oscillating between two or three. Both seemed cruel but I chose two.

I adore James Salter. "Light Years" was such a luminous, haunting book. "Burning The Days" was such an energetic, urgent memoir.

What happened to the energy, the urgency, the passionate, beating heart of life? Is this really "all that is"? I certainly hope not.

I was tremendously bored throughout the novel. I was dev
Violet wells
All That Is was my introduction to James Salter. I suppose the ultimate worth test of any novel, upon finishing it, is do I want to read another one of his books? The answer to this is, yes. Yes but not in a mad hurry of love.
His prose is almost like underwriting – sketched impressions that flit with a surprising dexterity over huge expanses of time and from one character’s perspective to another. Often he enters the point of view of sideshow characters for a moment, offers an anecdote or a vig
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
So... damn... good...
At Amazon, we picked this as a Best Book of the Month. In my Amazon review I wrote: "Beneath the deceptively straightforward coming-of-age and growing-old narrative--boy meets girl, loses girl; meets, loses; meets, loses--lurks the deeply personal story of what it meant to be a 20th century man. Phillip Bowman is the archetype of the flawed, ambitious, lust-filled American male. He’s Don Draper. He’s Rabbit Angstrom. He’s your dad. He’s my dad. (Also named Phil; also from N
Apr 24, 2014 rated it it was ok

2.0 (faint and distant) STARS

Perhaps I’ve become addicted to … no that’s not correct … perhaps I’ve come to expect gruesome violence, sexual abuse, explicit sexual encounters often to the point of depraved deviance or some degree of pedophilia or child exploitation in every book I read these days. It seems the most popular books or those produced by new, up and coming authors invariably contain some version of these themes. Perhaps these themes are necessary to satisfy the demands of the marketp
Apr 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Prior to reading 'All That Is', I had been hearing many positive things about the writing of James Salter. I picked this book up, not really knowing what to expect and now I can say that my feelings about this novel are complicated. First off, I want to say that James Salter writes beautifully… his prose flows and his descriptions of the characters and the settings are masterfully written. I was able to form a visual picture in my mind as I was reading , as if I was watching a film of what was t ...more
Andrew Smith
Nov 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-finished
I'm afraid I failed to finish this one. I got about a third of the way through and had enjoyed some of the writing and some sections had actually been really good, but the problem for me was twofold:

1) I just didn’t care enough about the lead character who seemed dull and was plodding through life after the World War 2. Nothing of any interest was happening to him and he, in turn, had nothing interesting to say.

2) I got lost in the myriad of characters, many of whom were dropped instantly after
What draws me to recommend this book is the writing. I thoroughly enjoy Salter's description of places and individuals. And sex - explicit but not too graphic and not rosily drawn in romantic words.

The places so wonderfully described are Manhattan and its suburbs. Paris, France. Spain. Thunderstorms. Beaches. Restaurants and bars. The publishing community as it was after the Second World War. The publishing houses are fictional but the atmosphere of the time feels genuine as well as the authors
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: National (US) Bestseller
Shelves: american, bestseller
My first time to read a James Salter book. This one was published in 2013, two years before he died. He was 88 years old when this book was published.

One of my ten favorite books is Honore de Balzac's 1835 novel, Old Goriot (5 stars). This led me to many other books about old age. I am 52 years old and it is a bit early for me to empathize with characters in their twilight years. However, for me, this is akin to readers who even when they are old are still fond of sci-fi, graphic novels, or roma
Sep 20, 2016 rated it did not like it
My response to James Salter's "All That Is" can be summed up in one question: "Is that all?"

I did not expect not to like this book since I have much respect for Salter's prose style and did enjoy "Light Years" and "Dusk and Other Stories". The prose is still commendable in this novel but it is really "all that is".

The story revolves around Philip Bowman, a young navigation officer who returns from WW2, and starts to find his way in life - getting a degree, finding a job, meeting women and gettin
Claudia Putnam
May 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
What if a woman had written this book--stylistically interesting in places, but basically a babbling chronicle of all the lovers a main (female) character had had? Wouldn't that be dismissed as chick lit?

Can't jump on the bandwagon with this one. So many people are praising the style/beautiful writing, but having just read Light Years a few months ago, this seems a little clunky in comparison. Also, shouldn't an author evolve over the years, stylistically? Does he really want to say the same th
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
After the fabulous 'Light Years' this was a bit of a disappointment. Salter wrote this book when he was already in his 80s, long after his other works. Apparently he intentionally stripped his style of every fringe. And that results in a succession of chapters with short descriptions, fast dialogues, a skinny storyline, and that's it. Yes, that's all there is, as the title indicates. Salter consciously highlights the futility of the 'human condition': his main characters Philip Bowman and his fe ...more
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I’m writing this review immediately after reading All That Is. I’m emotionally confused. James Salter did something to me in his writing that I never expected. I grew to love his concise words and phrasing. After taking a month to finish reading this book that I wasn’t sure that I could finish or wanted to, I feel uneasy. I also feel a small smile on my face for finishing the novel and finally becoming attached to the main character, Philip Bowman. It only took a month to do it. I’m left feeling ...more
Adam Ross
Mar 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's silly to compare Salter's All That Is to his previous masterpieces: Light Years, Burning the Days, A Sport and a Pastime. His stories. Not all of them, of course, but quite a few will endure. Still, the novel's terrific and will engender, I know, a massive reconsideration of his work, which is neglected, under-read, misunderstood, too brutal and unsparing for some, too highbrow for others, too sexual, too white, too whatever. Whatever. If you miss him, you've missed something great, and her ...more
John Thorndike
Jun 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
There is an act of revenge near the end of the book that stopped me cold. Other reviews have described it, so I won’t. Better to discover it as you read the book--and in fact, as you get close you’ll see it coming. The revenge is stunning in its cruelty, but what I find untenable is how indifferently Philip Bowman carries out the act, and how easily Salter lets Bowman off the hook. Only pages later he’s having another love affair, then another, then the book ends. But I’m stuck 30 pages back. Sa ...more
Ryan Chapman
Jun 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
One of Salter's strengths is his ability to convey the slow negotiations of new love, from two strangers meeting to the frisson of flirtation and the raw physicality of intercourse. (And by "raw" I don't mean fast; in Salter's universe the sex is quite deliberate.) Pair this with a protagonist who works as a literary fiction editor in the postwar years--a time ripe for easy nostalgia--and you have the makings of a great novel.

So why then is All That Is so underwhelming? Perhaps it has to do with
Carl R.
May 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
James Salter's Phillip Bowman survives two sinking ships in WWII. Then he comes home, gets a job as an editor, then gets married, then gets divorced after a while, then bounces from woman to woman like a beach ball tossed around in a football stadium. He has a couple of intense love affairs, one of which he hopes will end in marriage, but ends up with a big-time betrayal instead, so he goes back to bouncing from woman to woman again. Through all this his job is good. He gets to go to Europe a lo ...more
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, kindle
I got this book based on a glowing review in a NYTimes book review. In that review, it said something like 'people unfamiliar with James Salter should probably start with a more accessible book of his, like A Sport and a Pasttime, as this is one of his most difficult works to date.'

A ha, I scoffed. I read books like they're going out of style. How "difficult" can this be? I'm up for a challenge! Bring it on, Salter.

Let me tell you, this is a difficult book, and a gorgeous book, and even though
Aug 16, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ficciones
Dotage. Everyone stood and clapped.
Gregory Baird
“There comes a time when you realize that everything is a dream, and only those things preserved in writing have any possibility of being real.”

Hmmm. I'm of two minds on this one. On the one hand: WOW. James Salter is an incredible writer. His descriptive style is flawless: clear, concise, creative, and imparted with gorgeous prose that has a poet's precision. On one character's drunk mother: "Her voice slurred a little but she rode over it as if it were a fleck of tobacco on her tongue, as if s
Paul Secor
Apr 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I had two reactions to All That Is - the narrative/story line wasn't much - basically a man who thinks that the next woman is going to be "the one", with a nasty bit of revenge thrown in. That gets three stars. I would never reread the novel for that.
I may return to it because of the craft with which Mr. Salter writes.
There are innumerable sentences, paragraphs, and scenes which I would like to reread just in order to study what the author has done. The revenge passage, for example, was so well
Apr 19, 2020 rated it liked it
The title says it all. Trust me when I say I am big fan of Salter. But this was not at the level I expected. Maybe thats how its supposed to be - its all that is ( no pun intended).

The story starts well with Bowman's early life and then his stint in the war at Okinawa. On his return he seems to be "searching" for love as the jacket seems to suggest but in reality looks like a new woman every few pages enters his life ( and exits too) with alarming propensity. Is this all there is in the story ?
Lisa Reads & Reviews
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary

James Salter passed away last month, on June 19, 2015. I became interested in his work after reading this (from Wiki):

His friend and fellow author, the Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Ford, went so far as to say, "It is an article of faith among readers of fiction that James Salter writes American sentences better than anybody writing today" in his Introduction to Light Years for Penguin Modern Classics. Michael Dirda of the Washington Post is reported to have said that with a single sentence, he
Philippe Malzieu
Aug 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The book has been published on 21 of august in France. I read only 100 pages but I'm sure. For me it's the year book. It is is a twilight novel. At the evening of his life, the author teaches us a writing lesson. Critics talked about a small sad music to define the style of Sagan. In this book, there is the same nostalgia but with an incredible energy. And humour. Style of Salter is a small sad music inflated with the amphetamines.

Lions still howls.

Be careful, masterpiece.
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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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“He liked to read with the silence and the golden color of the whiskey as his companions. He liked food, people, talk, but reading was an inexhaustible pleasure. What the joys of music were to others, words on a page were to him.” 31 likes
“There comes a time when you realize that everything is a dream, and only those things preserved in writing have any possibility of being real.” 20 likes
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