Will Byrnes's Reviews > Light Years

Light Years by James Salter
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really liked it
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This is a portrait of marriage. I felt very touched by the lives he describes, not so much for their own travails, but in recognition of my own. There is such sadness in expectations unfulfilled. Our lives do not follow the script we write as inexperienced authors of our lives. We drift apart, do not, cannot travel like paired rails to a common destination. I guess that is what this book is about. I found it lyrical as well as sad, beautifully written, not the heroic in the world, the challenged macho man common to many other Salter works (Solo Faces, The Hunters come to mind)

P 24
There are really two kinds of life…the one people believe you are living, and there is the other. It is this other which causes the trouble, the other we long to see.

P 35
Life is contemptuous of knowledge; it forces it to sit in the anterooms, to wait outside. Passion, energy, lies: these are what life admires. Still, anything can be endured if all humanity is watching. The martyrs prove it. We live in the attention of others. We turn to it as flowers to the sun.

P 45
He wants his children to have an old life and a new life, a life that is indivisible from all lives past, that grows from them, exceeds them, and another that is original, pure, free, that is beyond the prejudice which protects us, the habit that gives us shape. He wants them to know both degradation and sainthood, the one without humiliation, the other without ignorance. He is preparing them for this voyage. It is as if there is only a single hour, and in that hour, all the provender must be gathered, all the advice offered. He longs for the one line to give them that they will always remember, that will embrace everything, that will point the way, but he cannot find the line, he cannot recognize it. It is more precious, he knows, than anything else they might own, but he does not have it.

P 300
Of them all, it [parental love] was the true love. Of them all, it was the best. That other, that sumptuous love which made one drunk, which one longed for, envied, believed in, that was not life. It was what life was seeking; it was a suspension of life. But to be close to a child, for whom one spent everything, whose life was protected and nourished by one’s own, to have that child beside one, at peace, was the real, the deepest, the only joy.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
July 1, 2005 – Finished Reading
November 1, 2008 – Shelved
June 9, 2018 – Shelved as: fiction

Comments Showing 1-26 of 26 (26 new)

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message 1: by Wanda (new) - added it

Wanda I agree with Page 300.


message 2: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Gosh, that last extract is quite something.....


Alan Prescott Insightful extracts that go to the core of what sets Salter apart from all other writers to whom he has been compared. The sheer brutality with which he skewers our innermost terror is leavened with the kind of grace we reserve for ourselves when we see our own words before us and acknowledge them as true. Salter is the baitless angler who lands the most rewarding catch.


Will Byrnes Alan wrote: "Insightful extracts that go to the core of what sets Salter apart from all other writers to whom he has been compared. The sheer brutality with which he skewers our innermost terror is leavened wit..."
There is much wisdom in this book, and nets full of heart.


Elyse Walters Hi Will, I just read your great review. So, you read this awhile ago? Read other books by Salter?

This was my first book ... I'm glad I discovered him. Wish I had read him before he died last year.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!


message 6: by Will (last edited Feb 08, 2016 01:21AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Elyse wrote: "Hi Will, I just read your great review. So, you read this awhile ago? Read other books by Salter?

This was my first book ... I'm glad I discovered him. Wish I had read him before he died last yea..."

Yeah, eleven years ago. I had read a couple previously, but I have not been back to his work since. I expect to some day.


Vessey Sometimes it is best to let the book speak for itself. Thank you so much for sharing these gorgeous passages, Will. Now I’m even gladder that I have listed this. Thanks.


Will Byrnes It is a pretty hard-hitting, perceptive book.


Elyse Walters I have tons of thoughts & feelings about this novel. I agree it's a
hard-hitting perceptive book. ( timeless in the same way Stegner books are). People who have read 'Stoner' even ..and know it's a book you just can't ever forget or shake the mood of it...
might have similar reactions with Light Years.

It's surprising he wasn't equally as known as Fitzgerald and Hemingway. He was equally as talented.


Vessey Will, I just started reading it. Thank you so much for the great passages you have shared. It was thanks to them I picked it up.


message 11: by Vessey (last edited Feb 11, 2016 03:56PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Vessey Sabah wrote: "So pleased I came across this. The quotes provided are so insightful. Thank you, Will! : )"

Happy to know you have it on your list as well, Sabah. I agree about the quotes. They convinced me to read it. Hope you get to it soon, so I can enjoy your review. You're way too awesome reviewer. :)


message 12: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks S & V. I expect to get back to Salter eventually,


Vessey Will wrote: "Thanks S & V. I expect to get back to Salter eventually,"

Will, I definitely would. Just finished it and I was blown away. I wanted to thank you again. If it wasn’t for you and Elyse, I would have never found this absolutely incredible book.


message 14: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Elyse has great taste in books.


kianna mcbride Hell a fact I totally agree with page 300


message 16: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Much truth there.


message 17: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice I don't know the degree to which this novel touched on the autobiographical, but in Burning the Days: Recollection, his autobiography, he said something about the woman he actually wanted--but couldn't have--introducing him to the one he later married, as sort of the next best thing. :/


message 18: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes It would be no stretch to imagine that reading his autobio would illuminate a lot of his writing.


message 19: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice I must read some to find out!


message 20: by Sheila (new) - added it

Sheila I love the quotes and will have to read this one now - thank you!


message 21: by Marita (new) - added it

Marita An excellent choice of quotes, Will!


message 22: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Sheila wrote: "I love the quotes and will have to read this one now - thank you!"
Thank you, Sheila. I was quite touched by this book.


message 23: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Marita wrote: "An excellent choice of quotes, Will!"
Thanks, Marita. I was not writing then the sort of reviews I write these days, thus the quotes.


Cecily Will wrote: "It is a pretty hard-hitting, perceptive book."

As is your review. I've recently finished this book: my first Salter, and so good, I immediately ordered another. "recognition of... sadness in expectations unfulfilled". Extraordinary.


message 25: by Will (last edited Dec 13, 2017 09:11PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks C. An old, brief entry of mine, from the way back. The book struck with particular, personal resonance.


message 26: by Cecily (last edited Dec 13, 2017 10:51PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cecily I'm sure it will stick with me too. I hope it is slightly less resonant for you now.


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