Read Light Years Online

Authors: James Salter

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Light Years

ACCLAIM FOR
James Salter

 

“No author in so few pages has ever with such icy logic and steaming carnality depicted the inexorable passing of years.”

—Ned Rorem

 

“Salter’s prose is spare, pared down so that the light on the other side of the language nearly shows through and makes the sentences luminous.… Salter’s achievement is that he uses his accomplished English to call our attention to precise moods and images, the feeling-tone of figures caught in landscapes of transcendent prose.”

—Alan Cheuse,
Chicago Tribune

 

“There is scarcely a writer alive who could not learn from [Salter’s] passion and precision of language.”

—Peter Matthiessen

 

“Admirers of James Salter’s fiction speak of it reverently, with delicacy, almost in awe. He writes about the fragility of things—families, love, sexuality, success—in prose that is as careful and light as a structure made of eggshells.”


Los Angeles Times Books Review

 

“Salter inhabits the same rarefied heights as Flannery O’Connor, Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams and John Cheever.”


Washington Post Book World

 

“This novel—explicitly moody, tender, elegiac—details the disintegration of a love and the unraveling of a well-knit life by the hearth.… What finally emerges is a narrative that is more thrilling than its cadences, its descriptive felicities or evocations of character. It is the sense we get, in places almost overpowering, that its real protagonist is time.”

—Sven Birkerts,
The Nation

 

“Salter is that rare writer who takes us inside worlds we may never be able to experience firsthand.”


San Francisco Chronicle

 

“Salter is an ultimately modern writer [whose] prose style is simultaneously terse and elegant, with alternately hectic and hypnotic rhythms. The images he uses are complicated and sometimes oblique. [Salter] observes accurately and intensely.”

—A. R. Gurney,
The New York Times Book Review

 

“Brilliant … moving [and] full of truth.”

—Edna O’Brien

 

“Among contemporary novelists, I can think of none who has written a novel more beautiful than
Light Years
. One must take care to read this book as slowly as possible, ruefully foreseeing that it will end. In our minds it will be a nourishing presence always like
To the Lighthouse, Tender Is the Night, A
Lost Lady—
a presence that we will have a hard time imagining our once having had to live without.”

—Brendan Gill

 

JAMES SALTER
Light Years

 

James Salter was born in 1925 and grew up in New York City. Like his father, he attended West Point, and was commissioned in the Air Force in 1945. He served for twelve years in the Pacific, the United States, Europe, and Korea, where he flew over one hundred combat missions as a fighter pilot. He resigned from the Air Force after his first novel came out in 1957, and has earned his living as a writer ever since. His work has received numerous awards, including an award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1982. Many of his short stories have appeared in O. Henry collections and
Best American Short Stories;
nearly all of them have been published in
The Paris Review, Esquire
, and
Grand Street
. His collection
Dusk & Other Stories
received the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1988.

 

A
LSO BY
J
AMES
S
ALTER

FICTION

 

Dusk & Other Stories

 

Solo Faces

 

A Sport and a Pastime

 

The Hunters

 

Cassada

 

(previously published as The Arm of Flesh)

 

Last Night

 

NONFICTION

 

Gods of Tin

 

Burning the Days

 

 

First Vintage International Edition, February 1995

 

Copyright © 1975 by James Salter

 

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright
Conventions. Published in the United States by Vintage Books,
a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and
simultaneously in Canada by Random House of
Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published
in hardcover by Random House, Inc.,
New York, in 1975.

 

The Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Salter James.
Light Years.
I. Title
PZ4.S177L13   [PS3569.A4622]   813′.5′4    74-29594
eISBN: 978-0-307-78172-7

 

Author photograph © Sally Gall

 

v3.1

 

Contents

 

Cover

About the Author

Other Books by This Author

Title Page

Copyright

Part One

Chapter  1
Chapter  2
Chapter  3
Chapter  4
Chapter  5
Chapter  6
Chapter  7
Chapter  8
Chapter  9
Chapter  10
Chapter  11

Part  Two

Chapter  1
Chapter  2
Chapter  3
Chapter  4
Chapter  5
Chapter  6
Chapter  7
Chapter  8
Chapter  9
Chapter  10
Chapter  11
Chapter  12
Chapter  13
Chapter  14
Chapter  15

Part  Three

Chapter  1
Chapter  2
Chapter  3
Chapter  4
Chapter  5
Chapter  6
Chapter  7
Chapter  8

Part  Four

Chapter  1
Chapter  2
Chapter  3
Chapter  4
Chapter  5
Chapter  6
Chapter  7
Chapter  8
Chapter  9

Part  Five

Chapter  1
Chapter  2
Chapter  3
Chapter  4
Chapter  5
Chapter  6
Chapter  7
Chapter  8
Chapter  9
Chapter  10
Chapter  11

One

 

1

 

WE DASH THE BLACK RIVER, ITS
flats smooth as stone. Not a ship, not a dinghy, not one cry of white. The water lies broken, cracked from the wind. This great estuary is wide, endless. The river is brackish, blue with the cold. It passes beneath us blurring. The sea birds hang above it, they wheel, disappear. We flash the wide river, a dream of the past. The deeps fall behind, the bottom is paling the surface, we rush by the shallows, boats beached for winter, desolate piers. And on wings like the gulls, soar up, turn, look back.

The day is white as paper. The windows are chilled. The quarries lie empty, the silver mine drowned. The Hudson is vast here, vast and unmoving. A dark country, a country of sturgeon and carp. In the fall it was silver with shad. The geese flew overhead in their long, shifting V’s. The tide flows in from the sea.

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