Reviews — From the April 2013 issue

Time’s Current

The autumnal works of James Salter

Download Pdf
MicroFiche

Discussed in this essay:

All That Is, by James Salter. Knopf. 304 pages. $26.95.

James Salter’s 1975 novel Light Years is a sensuously written account of time’s fracture of a happy marriage. As the book approaches its mournful end — Nedra and Viri Berland long separated, their home sold, their children grown, their physicality diminished — the erstwhile spouses’ thoughts turn increasingly toward preparations for death. Their movements are sad and slow, their thoughts elegiac. One morning Viri surprises his ex-wife with a phone call, and after some small talk, their conversation becomes philosophical:

“We’re entering the underground river,” she said. “Do you know what I mean?”
“Yes, I know.”
“It’s ahead of us. All I can tell you is, not even courage will help.” . . .
The underground river. The ceiling lowers, grows wet, the water rushes into darkness. The air becomes damp and icy, the passage narrows. Light is lost here, sound; the current begins to flow beneath great, impassable slabs.

What’s most remarkable about this conversation is that it takes place between two people who are forty-three years old. They are preparing to disappear meekly into the underworld not because they are ill but simply because they are past their dominant, attractive peak, like greyhounds who have lost a step. Reading Light Years for the first time at age twenty-five, I didn’t bat an eye at this. It’s a little more consternating now.

This article is only available to magazine subscribers. If you are a subscriber, please sign in. If you aren't, please subscribe below and get access to the entire Harper's archive for only $34.99/year.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Download Pdf
Single Page
Share

More from Jonathan Dee:

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $34.99

United States Canada

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2014

50,000 Life Coaches Can’t Be Wrong

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quinoa Quarrel

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

You Had to Be There

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Study in Sherlock

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content