Elyse Walters's Reviews > Light Years

Light Years by James Salter
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it was amazing

James Salter was born in 1925.
He grew up in New York....attended West Point.
He was a career officer and Flight Pilot in the United States Air Force from 1945 to 1957.
He earned a living as a writer after he resigned from the military.
James Salter died last year, June 19, 2015, at the age 90

This book, "Light Years", is my first exposure to Salter. He won numerous literary awards.
Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Ford has been quoted as saying...
"It is an article of faith among readers of fiction that James Salter writes American
sentences better than anybody writing today".

The rest of my review is going to be random thoughts
....I read this book slow.
....It's my opinion that the way in which a reader reflects on this novel could be influenced by age, marital status, and whether or not the reader has raised children.
....For PEOPLE WHOM ARE NOT FAMILIAR with James Salter: ( like I wasn't)...,
These are my thoughts:
1. If you are a writer and/or have interest in writing...this book is worthy of your time to read. (each word that Salter wrote seemed very carefully crafted...so that we are fixated into his special world).
2. If you've read Wallace Stegner books...( love them like me)...there is a pretty good chance you'll 'at least' be seduced by the writing style..( occasionally sensory overload for me), yet no question prose is lyrical and poetical
3. If you enjoy contemporary literature...about thoughts, emotions, relationships, aren't looking for thriller action..( can include the fact that you might not understand every 'thought' behind Salter's incomplete sentences), and the plot is incidental, .... Then by all means...read this book!

....Viri and Nedra live outside Manhattan, ( up the Hudson, out of the city), to raised their two daughters Franca and Danny.
....Living a polished cosmopolitan lifestyle of cocktail parties, holidays, chocolate and oranges for breakfast should one choose, gorgeous clothes, linens for the beds, best wines and cheeses from Zabar's market, shopping in the villages visiting the art galleries, ....Viri is an architect.
Nedra, "does everything and does nothing". She is tall, thin, sophisticated, and beautiful.

So....my 'real' thoughts about this novel:
I liked most of it...but not in a OH MY GOD sort of way. It's the type of story book that I would enjoy being part of a classroom discussion. We could pick it apart -page by page.
....I think feminist might have a field day with it...
.....There seems to be a real lack of freedom to be a plain Jane. Clothes, make-up, body weight, ( the wrappings of life), occupy the characters thoughts for so much of their lives...I really didn't think there was ever any sincere inner peace in this family. Not at the beginning -nor the end of their lives. Sure, they both took lovers...( no surprise). All their beauty, beaches, vacactions, wines, food, friends, could never be enough: THEY WERE NOT ENOUGH with themselves.
By the time it becomes clear to Viri and Nidra...that 'maybe' their young dreams were idealistic.... ( movie screen lives), they were already divorce..but also the book made middle age seem like OLD AGE ( I laughed a little that 43 & 47 was considered VERY OLD).... geeeee!

About the children: Franca and Danny. We watch them grow up to. ( their parents hopes and dreams). Nedra especially wanted her girls to be an extension of her self, and then do it better.
Well, even as a teenager, Franca begins to show her colors when she tells her mother, "you always insist on me being different". Franca didn't want to be her mother any longer. She wanted to 'blend' in with her peers. Sounds normal, right, mom's?

Later in the story...
When in Rome....
You'll see how everyone turns out....( I suppose every reader feels different about the ending). I'm not saying how I feel. ( I'm waiting to chat with my buddy)...lol

James Salter takes us deep inside a marriage .. much truth is written in his word...
lots of detail descriptions ( many to love, some to shake your head at)...
I'm not sure why I wasn't 'shaken' by this troubled marriage though. I guess I feel their marriage was founded on friendship.
From the start, it felt like an arrangement- more than a passionate couple who each valued a monogamous marriage in the first place.
The REAL sadness for me...was 'less' about their marriage -(lovers-or even betrayal), The sadness I felt was their lack of freedom to BREATH & BE
Nobody took a stand for comfort living. Beauty was more important than rolling in the mud... climbing trees, playing in creeks...
They couldn't get their attention off themselves long enough to let go and enjoy life!

This was a thought-provoking novel with dozens and dozens beautiful sentences!
"We dash the black river, it's flats smooth as stone. Not a ship, not a dinghy, not one cry of white. The water lies broken, cracked from the wind. This great estuary is wide, endless ..."

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
September 4, 2015 – Shelved
September 4, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read

Comments Showing 1-44 of 44 (44 new)

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message 1: by Tabetha (new) - added it

Tabetha Beautifully written review, Elyse! I appreciate all of the details as well!

Elyse Walters You're so sweet, Tabetha! Thank you!
Happy Super Bowl game day to you..,( us)...
I'm running out for a quick swim at the JCC.. Then back home to watch half time .( the music).. snuggle up to Paul and read ..,but doubt I'll watch any of the game.
Hey, Tabetha... If ever our city tries to stick you on a long criminal case for jury duty, do anything you can to get out of it. I'm still trying to get out of this case which is to run approx. 3 months.
Cross your fingers. Xo

message 3: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Smith Tempting review, Elyse. I read All That Is and didn't get on with it at all, in fact I gave up on it and failed to finish. That said, I like a good deal of what you've described. One for me to ponder on, I think

message 4: by Candi (new) - added it

Candi Love reading your thoughtful reflections and insights, Elyse. Wonderful review. I am not familiar with this author. I may need to take a look at his work.

Elyse Walters Andrew....I'm reading this with Violet Wells.....(we've been having discussions this past week --

I just did my review now (because I have jury duty this week) --a long criminal case --and unless I get out of it -- I've finished the book --so went ahead and wrote my review --
BUT....point is...
I think this is the type of book BEST read --'with a group'...
If it were lead by a literature teacher --(even better for me) --
There are so many different ways to look at the story itself --
and the writing -itself...
I guess its really a book to look not only at 'their' lives --but check in with ourselves.

I see two worlds all around where I live --(the wealthy-WEATHY -Steve Jobs types all around here --google -apple -etc.) --
the thrifty types too...
(which is why maybe I like "The Portable Veblen" book so much)

Many sentences in this book are run ons...................(like ME)...............hahaha
Hell, I could even be a writer. (not)...
But James Salter was brilliant in many of his sentences --others??
who the hell knew what he was saying?? He didn't even finish some of them.

but I liked the 'mood' of the book....
driving through neighborhoods...
different feelings characters had...

message 6: by Charlie (new) - added it

Charlie Close Hi, Elyse. Cool review. This might be a book for me. Thanks for helping me find it.

Elyse Walters Thank You Candi, Sabah, and Charlie.

I appreciate all your comments. Very sweet!

If any of you are considering reading his book called "A Sport and A Pastime", let me know...
because I'd like to try another book ....
It adds richness to read this author with a buddy. :).

message 8: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice I have his (autobiography? Memoir?) Burning the Days in my stack. I had never heard of him before a couple of years ago and still haven't read it. So glad you've discovered him, Elyse; your reading, reviewing and highlighting other friends' reviews will eventually inspire me to read him.

Elyse Walters That out to be an interesting book, Jan. You know I thought of you a couple of times reading this novel...
because you were a big influence on me picking An Amateur Marriage to read as my next Ann Tyler book...
( which I'm going to be reading with Sara next month) ...
It will be interesting to read another - talented - yet different author about 'marriage'.

As for Salter, I think I must personally at least read another book of his.
It sure paints a blank canvas ... lol
It's so easy to visualize many of the scenes he paints...and at times his writing felt like looking at an artist painting.

message 10: by Connie (new) - added it

Connie Ciampanelli I am not familiar with James Salter, but given your admonition to consider reading this book if you are a writer, well, it's going on my TBR list.
I generally don't judge a novel by its action, but by the beauty of the writing and the complexity of the characters. Light Years sounds like my kind of book.

Elyse Walters Oh....Connie, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Especially --you-(like me) --are married a long time (happy like me)....
This book shows something else....lol
But its worth reading this author...

I understand Salter may be more known for "A Sport and a Pastime". (but I think that's more erotic)...which might be good too...(also a great literary novel)

message 12: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice Elyse wrote: "That out to be an interesting book, Jan. You know I thought of you a couple of times reading this novel...
because you were a big influence on me picking An Amateur Marriage to read as my next Ann ..."

And I'm going to be so interested in the response to An Amateur Marriage! I even signed into that group so I could follow the discussion, even though I now get a thousand and one notifications! :-) (I'm not supposed to, but I do anyway.) Interesting group! An Amateur Marriage knocked me for a loop. As with all her books the reactions are diverse, so you & others may not respond that way at all. We'll see!

Here's where I read about James Salter. http://jewishreviewofbooks.com/articl...
It's a long article and very challenging. And now, looking at the first comment, I see why it's the memoir I've gotten. The writer said Burning the Days was Salter's "only readable book." I thought it was someone on Goodreads who had said that! And glad to hear you disagree, Elyse.

message 13: by Carol (new)

Carol Such a thoughtful and heartfelt review.

Elyse Walters Hi Jan: That 'was' a Long article! lol. Thank you for posting it. I can't believe I read about half... fell asleep... woke up hours later to see my phone between my covers ...for me to finish reading. When he chose West Point ( over Stanford), because his dad attended West Point...
I couldn't help think...
Stanford sure sounded like a better fit. I was imaging he and Wallace Stegner being friends and classmates. lol

So, Jan, you've got me more curious than ever with The Amateur Marriage. I'll keep you posted!!!
We will start discussing it in March. I'll begin reading it the last week in Feb.

I'll be back!!! :)

Elyse Walters Thank you Carol! I look forward to Violet's review. She is almost done reading it too.

This was a very talented writer. There is no reason I can see that he wasn't 'as' famous as Fitzgerald

Vessey Elyse, I’m starting this just now. Thank you so much for bringing it to my attention with your lovely and, as always, very touching review. :)

Elyse Walters Vessey... You're sweet. Mostly I look forward to your comments and connecting with you about this novel.
Violet is reading it too.. I'm guessing she may have even finished today..
We can look for her review soon too! xo

message 18: by Vessey (last edited Feb 16, 2016 10:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Vessey Elyse, I’m finished. It wasn’t perfect – only a teensy bit was not enough for 5 stars – but it was nevertheless brilliant. I loved it. Thank you once again for giving me a chance to read it. Hope Violet has loved it too. I would be happy to read her review. :)

message 19: by Andrew (last edited Feb 16, 2016 11:15AM) (new)

Andrew Smith Elyse wrote: "Andrew....I'm reading this with Violet Wells.....(we've been having discussions this past week --

I just did my review now (because I have jury duty this week) --a long criminal case --and unless ..."

Believe it or not, I've never read a book as part of a club or even with a reading partner. I'm probably missing out on so much! I am a member of a number of book clubs on GR, but I'm just a passive observer, not a participant.
I live in a medium sized (circa 20k people) market town. We're considered a holiday area - South West coast - but there's very little money here. We're only about two and a half hours from London, but it's a different world. But I used to work for a large organisation that took me around the UK and I saw money in other places, and some places where there is less money than where I live. I'm not sure what I take from this but I do know that too many people here - where I live - settle for what's here and don't expand their horizons or test their full potential. Is that opting out, ignorance or just laziness - I'm not sure.
A bit of a rant that, Lol! Apologies Elyse :)
I always value your inputs and I really look forward to seeing what I can take from this one.

Elyse Walters Vessey-- I just walked in. Paul is cooking dinner --and its almost done -but I'll be back --to read your review **** :)
--(I sure Violet is done now too --so we should be seeing her review soon) --Yesterday she only had 100 pages to go.

Then we can all 'chatter' about our little favorite parts -and thoughts - xox

Andrew --love the rank...(it was a good one!) --but you know SIR....lol you have just 'jumped' in to 'having' to try a buddy read sometime THIS year....
Its fun --I promise ---
Pick one person ---(or could be up to 4) --on this site to read a book which you are interested in --that you are sure the others in the gang are too --and 'go for it. You can allow 2 months...
And.... if you want.............
I'll give you an invitation NOW

Sara, (with the tea cup as her photo), and I are going to read "The Amateur Marriage" by Ann Tyler. I haven't started it yet --She hasn't either ---You are welcome to join. Its a small paperback (the copy I have) .
Many people on GR's says its good....
We are going to start reading soon --last week in Feb. --and then begin to chat about in in March --(we have the whole month)....
want to???

I don't do it often --but once in awhile --it adds an added pleasure to our reading. We've picked a juicy good book --easy read!

Say YES!!!!!!!!!! :) Having a male for this discussion for this topic may be good!

message 21: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Great job

message 22: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen This looks good... Wonderful review Elyse, had to add it..

message 23: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Smith Elyse wrote: "Vessey-- I just walked in. Paul is cooking dinner --and its almost done -but I'll be back --to read your review **** :)
--(I sure Violet is done now too --so we should be seeing her review soon) -..."

Ok, you're on, Elyse. We just need to find a book now. And feel free to invite others to join us if you wish :)

message 24: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne They sound like hard work. Geeze, alright! 43 can't be old. Uh-hum I'm 40! I like your comment that they were not happy 'just to be'. Great review lovely lady! Hi from me to you over there!!!!!! <3

Elyse Walters Andrew: Have you read "The Amateur Marriage" by Anne Tyler?
It comes highly recommended?

How about you join with this book --start reading in about a week-- we will discuss in March --Sara will be part of the discussion also! :)

Elyse Walters Hi Suzanne! You only have 3 more years to go until you are old...lol hugs and love --and big waves from the far away lands...xox

Elyse Walters Will....I 'felt' the emotional sting from your review -- I get that it really hit you -- we should chat about this one. The quotes you wrote in your review were powerful --yes?/! yes!

Elyse Walters Karen: just a thought.....want to join a mini book group with me -Sara --and Andrew (Andrew hasn't said yes...'yet') --reading the book "The Amateur Marriage" by Anne Tyler? we can share about it in March?

Its a more modern story about a marriage -a young couple who get married --but know so little about each other before they do it seems.

message 29: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Smith Elyse wrote: "Karen: just a thought.....want to join a mini book group with me -Sara --and Andrew (Andrew hasn't said yes...'yet') --reading the book "The Amateur Marriage" by Anne Tyler? we can share about it i..."

Elyse - that sounds great! I'll look up the book.
Karen & Sara - I hope you're able to participate :)

Elyse Walters Sara is for sure --- :)

and...and woman on this site name Mary is going to also (she read it before years ago --thought it was powerful-dark -and left and impression --and wants to read it again) ...

Sara made a thread where we can chat about ---Its in a thread --within the group "The Reading for Pleasure Book club".
(You already know half the people in there) ....
so join the group --you can say I sent you if you want)....
Its an public open group -very well run --no obligations --
I visit when I have time --not often but great people in there.

Cecily I like your "random thoughts", especially when it's a well-know author I've barely heard of. (Can I blame the Atlantic?)

Elyse Walters Thank You Cecily. Look for Violets review soon.

Violet wells "Nobody took a stand for comfort living. Beauty was more important than rolling in the mud... climbing trees, playing in creeks...
They couldn't get their attention off themselves long enough to let go and enjoy life!"
That's it in a nutshell. Oddly I think Salter is equally as guilty as a writer. He's always straining for beauty. The obsession for cosmetic beauty seemed to me like his obsession. Some of the superficiality he pins on his characters seemed like his superficiality. Also I think, ultimately, he came out slightly on the side of Viri, the male. There was the suspicion that, deep down, he can't help believing a woman's place is in the home.

Elyse Walters Violet... You know J. D. Salinger wrote books I loved -- especially when I was in High School...
but I think I knew even then - as a man--
Ladies should run:

What is it with these old fart authors?
And Hemingway...
OMG... sex must have been soo dull! lol

Guess Salter was part of the great-writers- boy club
No women allowed.

In SF.. The Men's club is still a famous spot for wealthy men ..
Woman are allowed in on Sunday's. They have an awesome swimming pool.
It's amazing it's still in business. ( this is not a gay bath house)...
Exquisite upscale Expensive club..
One of the oldest buildings in SF

Angela Lawrence nk!!w!aa

Elyse Walters Thanks Angela

message 38: by DeB (new)

DeB MaRtEnS Lyrical prose aside, who needs a book like this in their "recreational reading" lives? LOL, not me. It sounds VERY quaint, depressing and as lively as department store window displays were in their day. Thank you so much for your eloquent description. I need not feel guilty bypassing this American institution of a writer! :-)

Elyse Walters DebB....and thank you for your comment! :). Always a pleasure!

Cecily This was my first Salter, too, and your reaction mirrors my own: the beautiful writing, the truth about marriage, and so much more. Lovely review, Elyse.

Katie Fabulous review, Elyse. You really helped me understand why it wasn't a heart and soul read. There is something superficial, overly aesthetic about his characters, as if they only half live in their bodies.

Elyse Walters Thank you Cecily. I just saw your comment!

Elyse Walters And thank you, Katie... fresh off the boat. Lol. I still remember my experience reading this. xo

Laysee Such a thoughtful and insightful review, Elyse. It is true that the sadness surrounding that marriage stems from its lack of freedom, simply to breathe and be. This is the only Saliter I liked. His prose for even the books I didn’t like is superb and gorgeous.

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