On Reading: “A Sport and a Pastime”

sportandapastime[1]Though this book’s been reviewed a quadrillion times across the spectrum of print, paper, ones and zeroes, I’ve come to understand that it can be seen two ways.

First, James Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime can be read as a book about the details of an affair, and seen only slightly as a forest, instead for the litany of carefully crafted trees. To this end, enough has been written about Salter’s style. He’s an unstoppable paragon of enlightened word choice. Agreed and accepted. Salter can write about anything and make that anything seem like something. Details, careful as they may be, read to some like trivialities only those interested in beautiful prose will care to read.

Granted, it’s a beautiful read, and reading the book this way is just fine.

At different points in my own life, I’ve taken different meanings from these “trivialities,” outlined by many other reviewers of this book.After re-reading this book for inspiration, I’ve come to, I think, a second understanding of Salter’s third-degree of detail embellishment: first, with enjoyable experiences outlined–second–through an aged-too-far-from-youth narrator of private, fleeting details in the lives of–third–two unknowable people. In turn, the narrator’s oversensitivity, triggered often by fantasy, to Dean’s callous abandon spikes on every page, seizing you, in Salter style, with descriptions of the smells of hair, the sensation of cloth and rain, Dean’s image in a mirror, Anne-Marie’s breath.

Really though, Salter’s style must be cool to achieve the greater goal of A Sport and a Pastime: to reflect back on us the dynamism of each envy we feel toward those experiencing youth.

Anyway, killer read. Highly recommended.