The Lust Generation
James Salter's world of taste, flying, and mythic sex
All That Is
by James Salter
$26.95 List Price
In an epigraph at the beginning of his new novel, All That Is, James Salter announces that he now realizes everything is a dream, the only reality is that which is preserved in writing. If this is true, Salter—the writer if not the man—has a lot to answer for. I have just spent the past few weeks reading a number of his books, and it seems to me that if anything is a dream, it is the motive force behind the work of this highly acclaimed writer who, for more than fifty years, has been producing novels and stories whose style is uniformly praised but whose content is rarely addressed. Now eighty-seven, Salter has been collecting one award after another for literary achievement, and while I don't mean to rain on his parade, at this point in his career it is hard to avoid asking: Who is this man, and what is he actually talking about?
James Salter was born James Horowitz in 1925 into an upwardly mobile Jewish family. His mother was a beauty and his father a graduate of West Point who attained the rank of lieutenant and then left the military to make a pile in New York real estate development. James grew up in a world of money and glamour, and came of age with the expectation that neither would ever come to an end. But they did. During the Second World War, Salter's father was recalled to active duty as a major. Here, in the wartime army, he achieved the unrivaled success that proved his ruination. "When it was over," Salter tells us in his celebrated memoir, Burning the Days (1997), "he was never able to fit in again." Peacetime life now seemed prosaic. "It was the