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Solo Faces

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,050 Ratings  ·  128 Reviews
This novel exposes the obsession that draws climbers away from civilization to test themselves against the most intimidating and inaccessible mountains in the world.

James Salter captures the adventure of Gary, a roofer of churches, who feels restrained by conventions and flat ground. Unable to find happiness in his life, he travels to southern France to climb to the summit
Paperback, 224 pages
Published June 1st 1988 by North Point Press (first published 1979)
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Will Byrnes
Nov 01, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: adventuring
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
Few authors are classified as writers of modern classics in their own lifetime. It is in these terms James Salter (1925 – 2015) was spoken of. I am a fan, on the basis of his prose. Its strength lies in its brevity, power and clarity. His prose style, the protagonists’ attitude toward women and the exhilaration common to his books makes Salter’s writing similar to Hemingway’s. One can compare Hemingway’s love of bullfighting to Salter’s love of mountaineering and his experiences as a fighter pil ...more
Dane Huckelbridge
Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Beautifully written. Although I have no experience--or interest--in mountain climbing and find Salter's portrayal of women somewhat flat, his men are interesting and their stories gripping.

I love all of Salter's work. I particularly loved A Sport and A Pastime as well as Light Years but Solo Faces is an exciting, exceptional work.
Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
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
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
bleak. pointillistic. good.
Claudia Putnam
Jul 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
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
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
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
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
May 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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
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.
Apr 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
I can handle some sexism in this book but this goes too far. Plus, his protagonist reminds me of an Ayn Rand character.
Jeffrey May
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
"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
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
John Sperling
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Andreas Fuller
Brief, terse dialogue is interwoven with strikingly beautiful prose, and the result is gritty and poetic. There are echoes of Saint-Exupery and Hemingway, and Salter has the ability to write with total honesty.

"You love the mountains...," they said.
"Not the mountains," he replied. "No, not the mountains. I love life."

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.
Jen Squire
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
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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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“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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