Thursday, March 13, 2008

Last night with "Last Night"

James Salter might be my favorite author right now. had been having some trouble finding time/space/motivation to read books recently, but i just stormed through his '05 short-story collection, Last Night--a v. thoughtful recent gift from Laal--in like two days.

one thing that occurred to me as i finished the title story--which presents an awesomely fucked-up scenario that i'd rather not spoil by delineating--is that in a lot of ways Salter is a horror writer. his subject is basically relationships, or maybe the fucked-up messiness thereof, usually among affluent, intellectual couples, kind of like a more modern John Cheever. his scenarios are often predictable--basically once you're introduced to a marriage, you can pretty much just start the adultery countdown--but the emotions he describes are just breathtakingly sad and in the case of a story like "Last Night," downright terrifying and brutal, as much so as anything in a slasher flick.

there's some sense of morbid voyeurism, just gawking as people royally fuck up their lives in the name of pleasure, freedom, etc. (Spitzer could be a Salter character, for sure) but there are also moments where he describes blissful happiness in a very pure way. he's a skeptic, but it's not that he doesn't believe in love. it's more like he doesn't believe in faith or loyalty. or maybe monogamy?

and did i mention his absolutely exquisite sentencecraft? it's very much like reading Cormac McCarthy. you read and pause, read and pause, marveling at the audible poetics.

read A Sport and a Pastime while on tour and Light Years (also a gift, from an old friend/bandmate) a while back and was floored by both, but these stories manage to give you a whole lot of that effect in very tiny packages. i really really really recommend this one.

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