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All That Is Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 2, 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
What All That Is is is wonderful! (Using the word "is" three times in a row? Check. I can die now.) It's a celebration of being alive -- which sounds cliché, until you see how Salter manages to capture such a range of human experience in a tiny, 300-page novel. Life is a continuous cycle of love and loss, everyone deals with these differently, and truly, everyone is unique.
Salter's novel is told mainly through the eyes of Philip Bowman, a World War II veteran who spends the mid-20th century as a book editor in New York City. We follow Bowman through a marriage and several other affairs of the heart -- each meaningful to him in a different way. The plot of the novel really picks up steam in the second half, when Salter really begins to plumb the depths of Bowman's character. We have to decide whether, despite his flaws, we like him. It's turns out to be quite the tricky decision.
Salter also gives us mini-"profiles" of minor characters throughout the novel -- again just to illustrate how quirky we all are. And there a several sort of set pieces that lay groundwork thematically for later events. Normally, these would feel like unnecessary digressions, but Salter writes so beautifully, so elegantly, you're willing to follow him anywhere.Read more ›
And yet, for me, it was not an engaging novel. I found it difficult to follow the progression of time. In one chapter, unless I missed something earlier, the clarification came in the last sentence, "The president had been shot in Dallas." Then, at the end of the next chapter: "The New Year. 1969." Wait, five years elapsed between chapters? I was bothered by the frequent shifts in point of view, sometimes between paragraphs and some mini-stories that seemed to wander. After so many beautiful women and trips to Europe, by the end, I was ready to bid Bowman farewell.
That's the phrase for any novel by James Salter, and especially "All That Is." First, because Salter is known in the trade as a "writer's writer" --- underappreciated by the public but revered by those in the know. Then, because this is his first full-length novel since 1979. And, not least, because he is now 87 and by any sane measure it's likely that "All That Is" will be all there is --- his final book.
Regular readers of this site know that I have been an admirer of Salter's work ever since I read A Sport and a Pastime and Light Years as a pup, and that I have had the privilege of knowing Salter for three decades. The length of our friendship and his four score and seven years seem like fiction; for me, my friends are always the age they were when I met them. So I have trouble with the valedictory tone that's more or less expected in any assessment of "All That Is." In my head, I see Salter at his desk, surrounded by notebooks, turning words this way and that, struggling to write not his final book but his best one.
But "All That Is" does invite us to read it as a summing up. It has that heft: 300 pages, for Salter a thick book indeed. In form, the novel is surprisingly traditional. Salter, known for books that are short and terse because his sentences seem more carved than written, follows Philip Bowman, a smart, sensitive World War II vet who stumbles into the book business and has a long, almost distinguished career as an editor.
Publishing, even in New York, does not lend itself to heroics; Bowman "liked to read with the silence and the golden color of the whiskey as his companions. He liked food, people, talk, but reading was an inexhaustible pleasure." I'm down with that, but I live in New York, I've known that man.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Beautifully written, no real plot but because of the way he writes it doesn't matter.Published 14 days ago by valbert
This rather dreadful little book is a perfect example of the morass that literature finds itself in today. Read morePublished 17 days ago by booklover777
Only more pretentious and with a lot more sex. If you followed me around for a few days and recorded my conversations they would be about as interesting and meaningful as those in... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Mary Ellen Johnson
I was disappointed in this book. It appeared to be disjointed and the author's last hurrah.Published 3 months ago by Sorale Fortman
Brilliantly written and deeply moving. The landmarks that mark its chief characters' journeys through life, from the cataclysmic assault on Okinawa in 1945, through the confusions,... Read morePublished 3 months ago by F. Viviano
Salter is one of my favorite writers and I am always surprised how little known he is to so many people. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Barbara W. Apoian
Basically this was just one affair after another. Between the love scenes, I have no idea what the purpose of the story was. It was a complete waste of time.Published 5 months ago by Mom2Two
Although it is fashionable, and generally useless, to call a writer underrated, if I were to do so, James Salter (who passed away in 2015) certainly fits the bill. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Eric Maroney