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Solo Faces

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,007 Ratings  ·  124 Reviews
Vernon Rand is a charismatic figure whose great love—whose life, in fact—is climbing. He lives alone in California, where he combats the drudgery of a roofing job with the thrill of climbing in the nearby mountain ranges. Sure of only his talent and nerve, Rand decides to test himself in the French Alps, with their true mountaineering and famed, fearsome peaks. He soon lea ...more
ebook, 218 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Open Road Media (first published 1979)
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Will Byrnes
James Salter - from NPR

Rand and Cabot live for the thrill of climbing. Cabot is a natural leader, driven beyond reason. Rand is a tier down, but has enough core belief in himself to take on the most dangerous challenges. This is a very interesting book about these characters, what drives them, how it affects the rest of their lives, what society thinks of such people and, ultimately, what it all means. Rand changes over the course of the book, comes to some realizations while causing damage, an
Dane Huckelbridge
Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another one of those books that gets overlooked because of the author's other works. Everybody knows about "A Sport and a Pastime," (wink wink) and some will mention "The Hunters" as an afterthought. Both of which are great pieces of literature. But "Solo Faces" is really an exceptional book as well—and about mountain climbing, no less, which doesn't receive a whole lot of attention in the literary canon. In the way it describes the mountains themselves, it somehow also captures the seem ...more
Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
There is a tempting urge to begin: "This is a book about mountain-climbing, but it's not about mountain-climbing." That would help reassure some non-hobbyists (like me), but in fact, this is a book that's not "about" mountain-climbing that happens to be very about mountain-climbing.

I'll try to explain. Salter takes us into the world of someone we might call an anti-hero, if he ever let us get close enough to him to judge him with finality. We're thrown deeply inside his mind, body, and spirit, t
"He was lucky -- diarrhea had saved him." And with a loud laugh I finish chapter 8. Putting this down. Maybe later, maybe not.
Jul 31, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was beautifully written - I liked the style of writing. Easy to read, the prose flowed smoothly. This book is about Vernon Rand, the mountain climber and his drive to climb higher and climb solo. He has a friend/rival - Cabot - also driven to attain summits.

I was interested enough in these foreign peaks - for example, Mont Blanc - to do a little research on the internet so I learned some things I didn't know before. (Mainly I'm thinking - why California? Why France? Why not climb in C
Aug 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gary and Leslie
If you haven any interest in rock climbing, as I do a little, you will probably like this book. The story follows Rand an isolated young man in his late twenties who seems to have an unhealthy desire to take risks in mountain climbing adventures. The descriptions of the mountain climbing scenes are breathtaking, very tense. Salter puts you right in the moment on the side of the mountain. The character study of Rand is very good. He remains a mystery even to himself, characteristic of Salter. Wha ...more
Matthew Willis
Sep 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful book. There are as many moments of high adventure as quiet introspection as Vernon Rand attempts to conquer the vertical, vertiginous faces of the Alpine Aiguilles. Salter's spare but poetic narrative makes numerous attempts at scaling Rand's character, through fleeting triumphs, tragedies large and small, from different angles, before eventually retreating.
Oct 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Really starting to enjoy Salter's style. While sparse with his words, he manages to be very descriptive. Here he explores not necessarily the pull of the climbing life but the desire to find oneself in outside goals and achievements.
Feb 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great book. Salter's writing reminded me of a more-accessible version of Cormac McCarthy, with short sentences and limited descriptions of the plot, allowing the protagonists action to speak for themselves. I thought the ending was abrupt and out of character for the protagonist, which keeps me from giving it five stars.
Jul 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
bleak. pointillistic. good.
Claudia Putnam
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 18, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
OK, so I gave it two stars, but I still read it to the end. It's a story about a climber who at times directs but mostly follows his way through adventures in the mountains and with women. It moves along well in part because the climbs are suspenseful -- how could getting injured 1,000 feet up a rock face not be? -- and because the hero, Rand, is unpredictable. He lives a completely selfish life, not allowing even the woman he loves any hint of commitment. He seduces, conquers, leaves or is left ...more
Richard Magahiz
Mar 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in literary fiction
I had this 1979 novel on my to-read shelf even before hearing about the very recent death of James Salter.
The main character is someone lost, who believes he's found himself in climbing, in California and the Alps, but begins to find that the empty spaces he holds inside himself are bigger challenges for a man like him. When the world takes notice of him he know that they understand almost nothing about what he's like, and when they stop thinking of him it's as if he made no difference at all.
Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A book better skimmed than read.
When reading it closely, I found it a bit of a slog, but skimming gave me enough of Rand & Cabot's climbing adventures to satisfy me. Maybe it's partly because every climb (and there are SO MANY) reads almost the same? Maybe (probably) it's because Rand, as a character, just isn't all that interesting until the final ~35 pages?

Speaking of those final 35 pages-- the level of the prose elevates dramatically , particularly in the final Rand/Cabot scene, and it l
Bob Simon
Sep 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I would love most anything James Salter wrote...including the Scranton telephone book if he did the introduction. I read this years ago when it came out, and decided to re-read all of Salter when he died. I began the night he died....starting with Burning the Days.

A disclamer here: I have read every James Salter book and most of his essays. I think he is one of America's greatest writers...and one of the great writers of sentences ever. But this book is very close to me as I spent most o
Eric Krimmel
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a 1980's article, James Salter wrote, "Climbing is more than a sport. It is entry into myth." If you understand that you'll have a better idea of what he is trying to capture in this book. While this is a story about climbing in general and one climber specifically, it's more about the lifestyle of a breed of people who are living an alternate life. With this in mind, there are moments that are so accurately and succinctly defined they have a numbing effect. This kind of masterful writing mak ...more
dead letter office
i love salter. the climbing parts of this book are beautiful, but the romance parts read like equal parts hemingway and harlequin. this isn't his best book ( The Hunters is), but i'd read anything by this guy. there's a little ayn rand in his depiction of the hero at his heights (probably no accident his name is Rand) but he's ten times the writer she is, and he has a very different moral agenda.

by the way, the "official" blurb attached to this book by Goodreads was written by someone who either
Aug 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you can ignore the rampant misogyny, this is a fair read. There are some seriously clunky sentences but some great ones too. The climbing passages are by far the highlights. It's when he tries to write about Rand's wen that Salter runs into trouble. Worth reading from a craft perspective.
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It has its faults.But still a compelling read."Hemingway in crampons"not sure about that.Described as casually racist and sexist well not really sure about that either.For me a terrific novel.And why read it"because its there".
Dec 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Comme dans "Et rien d'autre", son écriture m'enchante, belle, directe, sans prétention, sans artifice.
Damon Isherwood
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like all of Salter's there is a lot of 'reality' in it; it is pretty confronting. Not recommended if you just want escapism but it is a bloody good story of the career of a solo climber.
Jeffrey May
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Facing the Future Alone (Solo Faces by James Salter)

So much strikes home for me in Solo Faces by James Salter that perhaps you should not trust my review. (My personal life and work felt deeply entwined with this novel. To some, this may appear shameless rather than seamless. To which I say, belay off.)

Salter is a writers’ writer and his style recalls an earlier literary epoch, where every word seemed to pack more weight. His precise language and elliptical literary techniques coalesce into a br
Nicholas Vessel
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Solo Faces" cements itself as a crucial text through author James Salter's precise prose as well as the manner in which the story captures the nuances of humanity through a pursuit that seems almost alien to all but those who participate.

The novel's protagonist, Vernon Rand, is not so much a picture of a typical mountain climber as he is a man obsessed. Rand's shift through the course of the novel is subtle but easily tracked and reads convincingly. In fact, what may be the strongest aspect of
Jan 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
beautufully written with sparse dialogue. Salter is an amazing writer his descriptions of Paris struck me, as I had the same observations on my travels there.
The meat of the story is about climbing and the lives of those obsessed with it. We all are familiar with our struggles to balance work and family. Some people have a third component to this delima. They have a great passion. They juggle all of these things until they drop one of them and go on with their lives.
Others follow their passion o
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
What a great writer! I had never heard of James Salter until I read an article by another writer who mentioned him as one of their favorite writers. His prose is fluid. It is my first exposure to Salter. I have had his book Light Years on my to read list for a couple years. Looking forward to reading more from him.
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Salter's fine prose paints a perfect portrait of a true hero. Salter knows writing and mountain climbing and the hero. Rand is not without flaws but he lives a hunter's life. Some men are hunters others are farmers. What does hunter do when he's long in the tooth? Retire to Florida where there are no mountains, no snow, no glaciers or get lost in oblivion of mountainside.
Jen Squire
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a good writer's hands, you don't necessarily have to like characters to be compelled by and concerned for them.
The narrative is contemplative, succinct and evocative. For tone and pace alone, I loved it.
Owen Curtsinger
Salter is a talented enough writer but it's hard to like a book that follows such a misogynist and selfish wreck of a human. I couldn't stand the main character but finished the book, for what it's worth.
Michael Virtanen
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fiction about climbers
Lee Razer
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france
Another Salter novel featuring a young American man in France, traveling and hardly bothering with a means of income. In this case our hero, Rand, is traveling upwards, ascending the most difficult mountain faces of the French Alps. He has no money, or hardly any, beyond what comes from the odd illegal job or the women with whom he's sleeping. Possessions could not matter less to him; what he desires, mainly, is the climb.
In the morning he woke among peaks incredibly white against the muted sky
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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
More about James Salter...
“There are men who seem destined to always go first, to lead the way. They are confident in life, they are the first to go beyond it. Whatever there is to know, they learn before others. Their very existence gives strength and drives one onward. Love and jealousy were mingled there in the darkness, love and despair.” 2 likes
“The classic decision is always the same, whether to retreat or go on. There comes a time when it is easier to continue upward, when the summit, in fact, is the only way out. At such a moment one must still have strength.” 2 likes
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