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Last Night Hardcover – April 19, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Teetering marriages, collapsing relationships and other calamities of the heart drive these 10 compact, unsettling stories by respected writer Salter (A Sport and a Pastime, etc.). The title story is especially impressive—when Walter Much and his seriously ill wife, Marit, agree that he will assist in her suicide, Marit insists that Susanna, a mutual friend, come over to keep them company in her final moments. Nothing goes as planned, however, and Walter's double betrayal of his wife ushers in the haunting conclusion. The reunion stories are equally compelling: in "Palm Court," a man who initially failed to marry the love of his life meets her years later after her divorce only to find himself overwhelmed and distraught by the mixed feelings she rouses in him. "Bangkok" offers a different take on the reunion angle, as a woman tries to tempt an old flame into joining her and her female traveling companion on a sexually adventurous, last-second trip to the Far East, despite his being happily married and claiming to be satisfied with his sedate, settled life. The reserved, elegiac nature of Salter's prose and his mannered, well-bred characters lend the collection a distanced tone, but at their best these are stirring stories, worthy additions to a formidable body of work.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Critics call novelist and short-story writer Salter a writers writer. These stories (some previously published in Esquire and The New Yorker) also confirm that hes "a readers writer" in his exploration of universal themes (Rocky Mountain News). Reviewers unanimously applaud Salters gleaming, precise prose and haunting retrospection, which reinforce complex and sophisticated characters and themes. "You can practically smell the cigarette smoke and hear the booze-scratched timbre of Salters characters voices," notes the San Francisco Chronicle. Despite his characters dubious exploitsthey drink, sin, and tempt othersthey occupy an emotional, ambiguous middle ground. A few stories seem truncated, and various points of view within individual stories caused some confusion. But Last Night is as good as any place to start to appreciate Salters genius.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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Due to their own or another's infidelities, most of Salter's characters are into their second marriages when we meet them. His characters cope with their disappointments in various ways. The ones who were cheated on preserve what innocence they have left by surrounding themselves with sympathetic friends and developing a more cynical view of human relationships; the ones that did the cheating try to rise above the petty gossip that follows them and cultivate a more detached/philosophical attitude toward the social mores that they violated. Both groups are wounded and protect themselves in whatever ways they can, but inside they all remain restless romantics/dreamers as vulnerable and capable of new life as poets and this is why Salter's stories always strike one as fresh.
Whether in their first or second or third marriage, Salter's restless male and female characters are never satisfied with the settled nature of marital bliss. Salter's are imaginative and desiring creatures more often than not uncomfortable within the confines of matrimony; therefore they are always searching for new or returning to old loves or at least revisiting them in their daydreams. In Salter's stories the past is always sabotaging the present; the past is always richer and riper and more full of promise than the present (or at least his characters believe it to be so) and so it is to the past that his characters repeatedly return.
In the real world, men and women who stray are vilified, but Salter has a way of complicating our reactions: his cheaters are both pathetic (for allowing dreams/idealizations of the past to ruin the present) and heroic (for refusing to surrender the most poetic/rarest part of themselves). It is never clear whether Salter thinks that the "poetic" part of these characters is their truest and rarest part or their shabbiest part. Salter offers no certainties, but the ambiguity is certainly part of the complex allure of these stories.
Salter's uncommon examination of a very common condition is what makes these stories more than worth your while.
Palm Court was my favorite of the ten short stories. I could not stop revisiting the notion of returning to unfulfilled or unsatisfied relationships. And the hope that one can recapture what was once unique but never fully claimed. Trying to rectify a mistake that cannot be undone due to time passed is just plain sad and Salter writes about it brilliantly in Palm Court.
All of his stories seem to amplify the hurt and pain of the characters all of whom have lost something along the way. Salter's world is definitely made up of flawed and unhappy people making his work compelling for its honesty and directness.
for a shock with the Last Story , title of book & the last story!