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Light Years Paperback – January 31, 1995

4.2 out of 5 stars 127 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Extraordinary . . . at once tender, exultant, unabashedly sexual, sensual, and profoundly sad. Light Years is a masterpiece.”
—Elizabeth Benedict, Philadelphia Inquirer
 
“Remarkable. . . . Salter celebrates the silver-and-golden bitterness of life. Light Years . . . becomes an unexpectedly moving ode to beautiful lives frayed by time.”
—James Wolcott, Esquire
 
“[A] twentieth-century masterpiece. At once iridescent, lyrical, mystical and magnetic.”
Bloomsbury Review
 
“An absolutely beautiful, monstrous, important book.”
—Joy Williams

From the Inside Flap

This exquisite, resonant novel is a brilliant portrait of marriage by a contemporary American master. Even as he lingers over the lustrous surface of Viri and Nedra's marriage, James Salter makes us see the cracks that are spreading through it, flaws that will in time mar it beyond repair. "An unexpectedly moving ode to beautiful lives frayed by time."
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (January 31, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780679740735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679740735
  • ASIN: 0679740732
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on February 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
The courage to live life as it changes, as the faults that went unseen in the initial rush of novelty emerge, to adapt, continue and be happy, content, this I believe is the heart of this work. The small imperfections that erode to fatal flaws as the years pass, the union of marriage that grows old, and regret and a desire for something new becomes an obsession. And if the freedom is regained can it ever be as it was anticipated. How can anything desired for years, embellished and romanticized for decades ever deliver contentment?
The marriage of Nedra and Viri act more like a parenthetical that contains the entire novel and its events, than they serve as the focal point. The dozens of friends on almost as many levels of intimacy all revolve around the married couple, the former couple, or the individuals they believe they become for a second time. Is contentment the equivalent of stagnation; is it predestined for most, or voluntary for the few?
Mr. Salter continues in, "Light Years", what he has done in all 3 of the novels I have read thus far. The people he creates transcend whatever story he presents them in. The personalities he creates are wonderful not because they entertain with their uniqueness or their contrived eccentricities, but because of how normal they are, or perhaps familiar. This is not to suggest they are cliché, they are everything but that, they are people you know, people you may meet, or a character that you find a part of you is within.
One of the beauties of what this man is capable of with his writing is reaching very deeply into the thoughts and fears that inhabit almost all of us. He does not presume, he does not judge or lecture, he just lets you look through your minds eye, and decide for yourself.
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Format: Paperback
I can still remember a time when drinking was an unmitigated delight. Rightly or wrongly, I felt freed by it of my worst qualities: humorlessness, abject obedience to authority, a fascination with judgment, morbid self-control.

Drinking, I became less narrow. I became, for myself, finally, unpredictable. At the age of twenty-nine, I had found a path into the open meadow, or the great teeming city, of life.

Let me put that another way: suddenly, for the first time, I was having fun being an adult.

It was around that time that I read Under the Volcano. I loved the book and I liked to read passages from it aloud.

But I didn't understand it. In addition to its exotic locale, it described an exotic experience: alcohol as an act of suicide. Alcohol as a flight not to life but from it.

If I were to read Under the Volcano today, it would not be the same book. (Re-read books are never the same, which is why there is no such thing as re-reading.) Lowry would now be describing an experience that has become a possibility, perhaps even an inevitability--an experience that, however faintly (or probably not very faintly) I now recognize.

So too does Light Years, by James Salter, a book I've just finished and which has shaken me as few works of art ever have.

Its account of the beauty of marriage, and of its pleasures, and of its terrible and insidious forms of loneliness, would have once been incomprehensible to me. I suppose I would have recognized--but without nostalgia, which makes recognition matter--its account of marriage as a form of refuge. And as a sight of sudden, permanent moments of beauty.
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Format: Paperback
The main characters are named Viri and Nedra, and Lord knows that signals "pretentious." Ignore all that. No one writes about what happens between men and women better than Salter; you can see your own relationships in the 308 pages it takes to track the glory and fall of this marriage between an architect and his thin, troubled wife. And the sense of place! Here he is on the lure the Hamptons held for Nedra: "She was a creature of blue, flawless days, the sun of their noons hot as the African coast, the chill of the nights immense and clear." I started the book in that place on a morning so grey the sky and ocean merged; I read through the rain; I finished at night. A day well spent.
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Format: Paperback
James Salter takes you so deeply inside the marriage of Nedra and Viri that you know these people as well as your own family before the book is done. It is a heartbreaking portrayl of love that turns to mere companionship. The beautiful wife, Nedra, seeks soemthing she cannot attain from her husband, nor from her affairs, nor from fleeing to Europe. She stands as one of the most completely-drawn women in American ficiton, a modern Madame Bovary. As the husband and wife grow apart, their children become aloof, the house they create falls into disrepair. It is the most accurate portrayl of the joys and sadness of modern marriage that I have read
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I was a bowled over by the writing in Light Years and then I grew impatient and then irritated, and then overwhelmed, and then back to awed, and seduced, sometimes within the space of a few pages. Reading this story was like taking a backpacking trip through India. One minute you are swooning in it’s sensory overload and the next you want to catch the next flight to Oslo. The prose is luminous, dense, beautiful and too much of the time just over the top and maddening. Some say Salter is a writer’s writer. I suspect that depends on which writer. He is certainly heavy handed with simile and metaphor (“The emptiness of the wine glasses was “the color of cathedral naves”). The book is saturated. There are times when those devices serve him beautifully and there are times when it’s just … enough, already.

It is 1958 and we are just north of Manhattan in Westchester County. Nedra, her husband, Ari and their friends speak differently from you and me (or at least I hope they do), like certain people of their time who have moved up the Hudson and out of the city to raise their children. They bring with them the bohemian, esthetically elevated ambience of their life in the Village and the upper West Side. They are affluent, they are knowledgeable, they are sure of themselves. When they entertain they drink Margaux sitting beneath a Chagall print and eat cheeses that come in thin boxes from Zabar’s . If no one is around to see you eat oranges and chocolate for breakfast is it still cool? Just wondering.

After a bit, Salter’s characters began to irritate me with their affected habits and their self obsessed lifestyle. They live their lives as though someone is filming it in real time. But okay, we don’t have to like the people we’re reading about.
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