Search Results for: james salter

all that is and the faraway nearby

My reading takes a turn from the raucous dark humor of Gone Girl to a quiet reminiscing with James Salter’s All That Is.  I must tell you I am not that far along into his book to give it a fair review, but let’s say I am plugging away with great hope I will be able to finish this one.  Salter’s protagonist Bowman finds himself in New York after returning from WWII an unlikely hero, mainly because he survived.  He lands a job as an editor of a small bookish press and sets about falling in love.  I say the book is quiet not because it isn’t interesting but because Salter writes with such a keen reserve–he’s that observer who takes in every detail and ruminates over only the best to give back.  It must be agony for him to write!  But his prose is lovely, and he’s often funny.  In 1993, the poet Edward Hirsch published this charming (but lengthy) interview with Salter in the Paris Review which I’d highly recommend giving a skim.

I am also adding to my bookshelf another title I stumbled upon during this morning’s browse.  It’s a new memoir from San Francisco-based author Rebecca Solnit called The Faraway Nearby.  The reviews are so-so, but who thinks they get it right all the time anyway?  The huffingtonpost describes Solnit’s book as “a beautiful, meandering look at stories, writing, family and memory.”  The editors go on to say, “This is one of more beautifully written books we’ve read this year, filled with insight and gut-wrenching phrases. It is simple to read, yet generates complex reactions in the reader. If you enjoy stories and storytelling, this book will expand your understanding of them, and yourself.”  The title is a reference to the 1938 painting “From The Faraway, Nearby” by Georgia O’Keefe, which sounds lovely but is actually in my humble opinion a hideously unattractive painting of an animal skull with antlers depicted in those peachy southwest hues of early 1980s wall paper or living room decor–certainly nothing to write a book about.  Despite that, Solnit’s memoir still sounds to me like something worth spending the kids’ lunch money on.  And if I keep splurging on all these new titles, they just might need to start foraging for food downtown or start a macaroni garden in the backyard.


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i shall be telling this with a sigh

I’ve known this for nearly twenty five years, but this week I am really feeling it.  I am not a good tourist.  I don’t sign up for tours, I don’t appreciate opportunities to swim with dolphins or ride a camel on safari.  The thought of soaring miles above a jet boat suspended by a long string with a humongous parachute ballooned above me just seems, well, ridiculous.  I don’t like to dine in crowded restaurants in shorts and flip flops.  And there’s only so much poolside real estate I can claim before the urge to hop on the subway and disappear into the smoggy urban metropolis takes over.  When the man I keep and I traveled to Rome early in our marriage, I carefully researched tour companies to insure we could have as inconspicuous an experience as possible, knowing I wanted help navigating archeological sites but would absolutely cringe if I had to follow anyone with a red umbrella.  In college when I traveled abroad for a semester, my kindred spirits and I made sure to never travel too closely behind our American classmates, especially the guy in acid wash denim and roller blades.  In fact, we hit up NEXT and the Camden Markets right away and in our new fashions, blended in as best we could–that is until we had to speak to anyone. With only a weekend for Paris during that same semester abroad, I skipped the elevator up the Eiffel Tower and went out into the suburbs to visit Rodin’s atelier and the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, final resting place for Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Chopin, Moliere and Jim Morrison.   Needless to say, I will never set foot aboard a cruise ship anytime soon.  I love to travel, but when I do, I prefer to pretend like I live wherever I am going.  I don’t mind getting lost and go to some length to fit in and wander away from all the tourist traffic.  Into the wilderness.  Trees or pavement.  Narrow cobbled streets and quiet cafés.

I think what bothers me most is self-consciousness about American privilege and arrogant excess and the way in which local economies subsist on the trappings of foreign tourism.  Even when I visit art museums, I am self-aware of my own gaze upon some found cultural relic deemed ‘important’ and housed in glass so paying patrons can say they saw it.  There’s a superficial emptiness underneath the tourist’s quest for adventure and cultural experience that makes me sad.  We’re collectors with deep pockets and insatiable appetites, raiders and paraders, and this is often at the expense of someone else’s more profoundly authentic life, a life made less fortunate in its desperate quest for American dollars.

My ideal getaway is akin to reading a good novel, an opportunity to slip quietly into someone else’s life for a few days without drawing attention to myself and without the knowledge my presence is a form of corruption.  Where to next?  Gillian Flynn or James Salter?

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reviewing: leigh’s favorite books

leighsfront

As I start to type this, I am sort of feeling like Stephon from SNL, about to say The Bay Area’s Hottest Bookstore is _____ Leigh’s Favorite Books!  This place has everything . . . . Oh, stop me!  Ok.  (hands over mouth, getting serious now)

LeighsMurphy   LeighsStreet   LeighsCafe

I made a quick trip to check out Leigh’s because I am still searching for that summer read that’s going to sweep me away.  This little shop is tucked away on the quaint tree-lined Murphy Street in downtown Sunnyvale, smack dab in the middle of Silicon Valley.  And it does have everything.  It’s got a vintage-y welcome sign signaling its historic downtown status.  It’s got a brick pedestrian walk dotted with wrought iron cafe tables and chatting couples in business casual.  Savory smells of curry and roasting coffee beans.  There’s even a little alleyway artisan sweet shop called Chocalatier Desiree with the most delicious salted caramels.  But I came for the books, of course.

Leigh’s is a new and used bookstore, with clean Ikea shelving and a helpful clerk.  What more could you want, right?  She looked around for James Salter’s All That Is and upon discovering they were sold out, offered to recommend some alternatives.  She peeked at what I already had in my arms and reassured me customers had been saying they were great, and when I purchased the two new books, she told me about a resale incentive they have should I choose to return them once I finished.  Obviously she doesn’t know me because who knows if I will ever finish these, but my point:  she was perfect–not too intrusive or pushy at all.

LeighsYayIn addition to a healthy selection of new and paperback titles, this shop also has a small smattering of elegant greeting cards and unique gift items, like these fascinating YAY! magnets.  I’m not a magnet person myself but how could you buy just one–they are so expressively joyful together.

LeighsKids    leighsshelves

And directly next door is the attached literary lounge for little loves, their Bookasaurus.  I will come back with the man I keep.  I would even take my mother-in-law to lunch here.  It is the perfect place to spend a summer afternoon.

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