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Solo Faces: A Novel Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 218 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press (June 1, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865473218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865473218
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Solo Faces contrasts a devotion to mountain climbing with the earthbound tugs of love and ordinary life . . . A beautifully composed book that will remind readers of Camus and Saint-Exupery. It exemplifies the purity it describes."--Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

"[Salter is in] the great modern tradition of Conrad and Hemingway and Malraux."--Samuel Hynes, The New York Times Book Review

"A terrific novel--compelling, sad, wise, and kindhearted. Mr. Salter's prose is rare and stunning . . . How energizing it is to read a novel with a real hero in it--and a real hero he is.--John Irving

About the Author

James Salter was born in New Jersey in 1926 and is the author of The Hunters, The Arm of Flesh, A Sport and a Pastime, Light Years, Dusk and Other Stories (winner of the 1989 PEN/Faulkner Award), and a memoir, Burning the Days. He lives in Aspen, Colorado, and Long Island, New York.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Salter's writing style is crystal clear, always vivid.
Ronald Scheer
Salter seems comfortable with the open-endedness of his tale, but for the reader it only insures that the book will haunt us for some time to come.
Houseboat dweller
I did not love the book's final chapter, which seems too obscure and unsatisfying.
Bryan Moore

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Moore on May 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
What makes SOLO FACES such a good read is, in part, 1) Salter's lean, understated, "honest" style, 2) his concern for all his characters, and 3) his ability to write about climbing intelligently without overdoing it. As far as I know, no novelist but Salter has pulled #3 off successfully. The novel is based (more or less) on the life of Gary Hemming (Rand in the book), who made a heroic rescue of two German climbers (Italians in the book) who were stranded on the daunting face of the Dru. Rand is a believable character: humble and shy, but confident and unable (or unwilling) to develop attachments to the various women that shuffle in and out of his life. I did not love the book's final chapter, which seems too obscure and unsatisfying. But maybe I just didn't get it. All in all, this is a very fine novel by one of our most underread writers.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on July 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
James Salter's novel tells the story of Rand, a solitary man in his late 20s, with a fatal attraction to mountain climbing. We meet him on a hot, hazy day doing a roofing job on a church in Los Angeles. Quiet, focused, he watches warily the heedless young man working with him and then catches him just in the last moment as he falls from the roof. This same drama plays out again later in the novel, as Rand saves the lives of other mountain climbers, high in the French Alps, in wintry, bone chilling conditions.
One case of heroics makes him a media celebrity, and for a time he is an American in Paris enjoying his 15 minutes of fame. But the time passes, and he returns again to the austere, stoic life of a climber, growing older, with no assets, no home, no one who will love him on his own terms. He has only his desire to continue climbing and the need to take ever greater risks. Emptied of every other need, his lonely heroism is an ironic portrayal of the individual who strives against all odds to achieve impossible goals.
Salter's writing style is crystal clear, always vivid. He tries for no special effects, just a precise choice of words, sentence after sentence, and an unblinking eye for detail. If you have the slightest trepidation about heights, the descriptions of the climbs make your heart race. Master of his matter-of-fact style, Salter moves beyond emotion and the romance of adventure to capture the excitement of being fully in the present moment and intensely alive.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Doug Anderson VINE VOICE on October 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
This great book by Salter who has authored many great books may just be his best. The book is about rock climbing. That sport is the most extreme of the extreme sports but also the most solitary and therefore most spiritual and lyrical as it is so often done alone and any mistake is almost certainly a fatal one. The book begins on the top of a church in L.A. where our main character Rand is doing yet another impermanent odd job in an equally impermanent location repairing roofs for a summer, a situation that allows him to retain his most cherished possession, his freedom. And the ultimate expression of that freedom is climbing. Nothing holds Rand for long, no place and no woman, and so very soon in the novel he is off to the Swiss and French Alps, locations of some of the most heralded peaks including the sheer faced obelisks, the Eiger and the Dru. The book is full of climbing lore(including one mountain rescue based in fact) and that great theme of man versus nature as well as the writing style recalls Conrad and Hemingway. Salters sense of adventure as well as his aptitude to tell a story perfectly recalls both authors, but he has his own style and what he does with this adventure tale is completely his own. Salter shows the great romantic appeal of his hero Rand and he also shows the singular nature of such a character and how a life dedicated to legendary feats and life-in-peril daring can leave a man at some remove from others. The minor characters include climbing friends and the various women involved in Rand's love affairs. Though each of them a brief episode only the love episodes are poignant as they more than any other part of the book show how unreachably alone romantic Rand really is.Read more ›
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 21, 1997
Format: Paperback
The saga of a man who feels restrained by conventions and flat ground. Unable to find peace in the heights of his job as a roofer of churches he travels to southern France to assault the Alps. Climbing alone he negotiates the granite faces of the mountains until he takes on their majestic qualities himself. When a friend is trapped on the mountain, he makes a daring one man rescue during a storm that brings him the notice he has always shunned. But glory is fleeting and he returns to the anonymity he prefers having satisfied the only person of importance in his life, himself. This superbly written prose includes a description of being struck by lightning that is so vivid that you feel it. Salter is without question one of America's great writers and this is one of his best
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Joss on February 27, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
James Salter is one of America's finest writers, and his skills here match his other books.
Climbing and the inmost soul are Salter's subjects here, and he captures both with unerring eye and literary skills. Because he never overwrites, the casual reader may not fully appreciate the challenges that the author meets so elegantly. God and the devil are in the details, and in climbing (as in flying, about which Salter has written so well) lack of attention to detail can kill in instants. Readers who are also writers will slowly become aware of the fact that Salter never puts a word wrong and never uses more words than are necessary to communicate with the soul. Reading such work is reminiscent of looking at a seemingly simple but beautiful piece of sculpture or mechanical object in which every last detail has been honed to perfection and does its job correctly.
Why does this matter? Because if one reads the current wretched messes masquerading as quality fiction, for example in the NEW YORKER, one gets the sense of being asked to become involved in descriptions of navel lint, or more often of being asked to empathize with silly and unsympathetic people devoid of lives that involve risk.
So what has Salter done with SOLO FACES that transcends the current (02) wrtechedness? He puts us deep in the heart and soul, and makes us care about what these people are doing, and why. The climbing descriptions, despite being low key, will induce in the reader a sense of physical involvement that is (probably) measureable physiologically (heart rate, GSR, etc.). Anyone who wants to climb the Eiger is not sane, but deeply to be respected.
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