James Salter is a brilliant writer. He's perhaps among the greatest American writers alive today. But "All That Is," his latest work and his first full-length novel since 1979, feels written more for writers than for readers. Its strength is the intensely beautiful way Salter combines words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into this lean, spare 300-page novel.
"All That Is" tells the story of the life and loves of Philip Bowman, a World War II veteran who spends a career in publishing. But what happens to Bowman -- whom he loves, whom he loses -- feels less important than the wisdom Salter leaves behind.
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"All That Is"By James Salter
Alfred A. Knopf, 304 pages, $26.95
On the blinding power of love:
"He loved her for not only what she was but what she might be, the idea that she might be otherwise did not occur to him or did not matter. Why would it occur? When you love you see a future according to your dreams."
Or the simplicity of a much-loved home:
"Summer mornings, the light of the world pouring in and the silence. It was a barefoot life, the cool of the night on the floorboards, the green trees if you stepped outside, the first faint cries of the birds."
In the end, what happens to Philip Bowman is of little consequence. Instead, what matters is the journey led by a true master of the written word.