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Burning the Days: Recollection Paperback – September 29, 1998
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Salter puts the reader on notice from the very beginning that this will be a selective sort of recollection: "If you can think of life, for a moment, as a large house with a nursery, living and dining rooms, bedrooms, study, and so forth, all unfamiliar and bright, the chapters which follow are, in a way, like looking through the windows of this house.... At some windows you may wish to stay longer, but alas. As with any house, all within cannot be seen." What, then, are we privileged to see? Salter's airborne years account for perhaps a third of the book, and for this we should be grateful: no contemporary writer has made the experience more vivid or eerily palpable. There are brilliant evocations of New York, Rome, and Paris, some of which rival the virtuosic scene-painting in the author's A Sport and a Pastime. More to the point, there are human beings, who tend to get semi-apotheosized by the sheer elegance of Salter's prose. ("I do not worship gods but I like to know they are there," he notes in his preface--although his portrait of, say, Irwin Shaw does seem to be propped up on a private altar.)
Salter's lofty romanticism can sometimes turn to gush. These blemishes are far outweighed, however, by the general splendor of the prose, which alternates Proustian extravagance with Hemingway-inspired economy. And even when the book flirts with frivolity, there is always the undertow of loss, of leave-taking. Many of the things that Salter describes are gone. In addition, he claims to have despoiled whatever remains by the very act of writing about it: "To write of someone thoroughly is to destroy them, use them up.... Things are captured and at the same time drained of life, never to shimmer or give back light again." No doubt his assertion has a grain of truth to it, at least for the author himself. But his loss is the reader's gain: most of what Salter has captured in Burning the Days remains alive and, frequently, luminous. --James Marcus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Salter's novels are case studies of what I'd call male mythology. The heroes of "Hunters" and "Solo Faces" seem trapped in hyper gender roles, testing always both a kind of grace under pressure and an ability to endure physical and psychological extremes. "Burning the Days" turns out to be a celebration of those values, where to be a man is to embark on a long, lonely journey of proving that one is both like and better than other men.
The book is his own story of emerging from a fairly nondescript youth in New York to the life-transforming experience of West Point and a career as a pilot, along with the getting of a kind of worldly wisdom during times spent in Europe, especially Paris. His life as a writer introduces him to literary circles in New York and abroad and an international community of filmmakers and film stars.
Through it all, Salter focuses often on the men around him who earn his respect. He marvels at the particular integrity that makes each of them admirable. He elevates each of them into a kind of pantheon, and when all is said and done, he hopes that his own life warrants him a place among them. By contrast, the women who pass through his life are remarked upon for their beauty and intelligence, but beyond that they are walk-ons in this book about men.Read more ›
It is, in fact, a great deal more than that. Like Casanova's immortal memoir, this is the work of an old man looking back on the dazzling life he relished but which has vanished forever. As such, a funereal darkness lurks behind every sunlit memory, an abyss of ruin underneath every bejewelled sentence. There is a sad wisdom in these pages that makes "Burning the Days" a timeless classic, belonging to no one generation but to all.
Salter's writing style is unusual. The syntax often makes one stop and reconstruct, thus stop and think. On rare occasions it's nonsensical. I particularly was annoyed with the confusion of general pronouns among mixed proper pronouns, the result being that I couldn't figure out who he was talking about. That said, his use of the language is superb. It's there in all of his work. And he's a wonderful "observer and describer" of people and things.
His life story is, of course, fascinating. Raised in privilege in NYC. West Point. Combat jet fighter pilot. Author. Director. Screeenwriter. Literary socialite. World traveler.
His singularly candid recounting of his years at West Point was excellent in quality and style. He gives West Point to us warts and all. And his internal struggles. Loathing it, living it, finally loving it.
The tales of flight are absolutely riveting. Nobody does it better. True storytelling that sometimes touches your heart, and sometimes raises your heartrate with the tension. In reading these memoirs I found that as I had suspected, his first novel, "The Hunters", was largely autobiographical. For me, this only adds to the greatness of that work.
The writing years seemed to be a little slower reading. At least for me. And I can't decide whether Salter was indulging in a little "name dropping". In any case, he travels in high company. He is loyal to and generous to his friends. Plenty of saucy tales, no vulgarity. Well done.
I do not share his love for Paris. Salter breathes it.Read more ›
James Salter certainly has burned through his days, as this oddly structured, intensely lyrical memoir demonstrates. He's best known (properly) as the author of two of my favorite post-war novels--A Sport and a Pastime and Light Years. He wrote the screenplay for the icy, piercing Downhill Racer, one of Robert Redford's best films. Before becoming a writer, he graduated West Point and fought in the Korean War as an Air Force fighter pilot.
Also, to his credit, he embraced the post-war possibilities open to an American man: see (and rule) the world; educate yourself as a world citizen; help re-construct, if only by your love, Western Europe; and never cease to admire our country's incomparable landscapes and coincident opportunities.
By all appearances, Salter has known power--been close to it--but never allowed that closeness to ruin him as an artist. He evokes the circles of power, the famous faces, with their fantastic, distorted personalities, with intriguing delicacy. He's also had the good sense to fall in love a few times. Anyone who has picked up A Sport and a Pastime already knows how precisely, how lethally he records the burning choreography of love.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A bit slow in early pages, but soon turns interesting, informative. I like the description of experience, the wide variety in led life. Half-way through.Published 3 days ago by Amazon Customer
Salter as though he's sitting across from you...telling all....sparing little, including himself. His pilot experiences are like mine skydiving... Read morePublished 16 days ago by R. Simon
James Salter -now a blessed memory- was/is and continues to be ever powerful in detailing the relationship of men and women, and in the writing style of the page-turner. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Albert V. lesley
A very acute and senstive view of a man's life who, regretfully, always seems to be a number two (but likes it). Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
The writing in this is delicious. This is a memoir of James Horowitz AKA Salter's early life, years at West Point, career as a pilot in the Korean War and this his years as a... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Rosemary Clay
James Salter died two months ago, having lived a full life, to the age of 90. I only recently became acquainted with his work, having read his classic, published in 1967, A Sport... Read morePublished 5 months ago by John P. Jones III
I liked the first part, about his years as a pilot. After that I am afraid it all became a little boring, well written as it may be.Published 5 months ago by Annie Van Acker
The book held my interest and was very well written. I found it difficult to care about any of the characters. The plot, like the principal protagonists, seemed to go nowhere.Published 5 months ago by Bill Reilly