all there is, RIP james salter

Children are our crop, our fields, our earth. They are birds let loose into darkness. They are errors renewed.

~ James Salter

I returned home late yesterday evening after an entire day spent in a community theater whilst my biggest love ran through two different dress rehearsals for the dance recitals she will be in this coming weekend.  Well, if I’m honest, I didn’t actually spend the entire day inside the theater.  When I wasn’t there singing along in my seat or trying to push the kids off the stage so I could take my turn, I was making three trips up and down the freeway fetching and carrying and loving.  Loving it all, for sure, but by 9 PM I was feeling a little foggy.  Sometimes a few minutes in a whirling spa can clear the mind, but for people like us, though, it’s mostly storytelling and books that seem to cure any kind of weariness.  And so it was that I found myself sitting at my desk downstairs in my study, wandering into the online bookshop for succor.  [Read more…]

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the true love, the deepest, the only joy

Children are our crop, our fields, our earth. They are birds let loose into darkness. They are errors renewed.

~ James Salter, Light Years

The other evening I could not sleep.  It wasn’t typical of other sleepless nights where I lie awake for an hour and eventually fall back to sleep.  I had this sense of alertness like I was meant to be doing something, like I was meant to rise and start the day.  Only it was pitch dark and completely still.  Three o’clock and then four o’clock turning into five and I tossed about as the rest of the house settled in slumber.  On nights like these, I often imagine God is trying to talk to me only it’s so aggravating because I don’t know what to do or whether what I’m hearing is real or just a confused projection of some subconscious will working its way to the surface.  Suddenly I hear a stirring downstairs and then footsteps on the floorboards coming toward my room.  My oldest daughter has had a nightmare and wants to crawl into my bed.  Still clutching her blanket, she squeezes in next to me and we spoon like best friends, her body as long as mine, heavy with fatigue.  She smells my hair and wraps her arms around me, and even though I am turned towards the wall with knees half out of the bed, I reach around to rest my fingertips against her cheek.  We cling to each other despite the discomfort, and I know then I was meant to be awake for the rest of the night so I could remember this love forever.

 

She was forty-seven. Her hair was rich and beautiful, her hands strong. It seemed that all she had known and read, her children, her friends, things which had at one time been disparate, were quiet at last and had found their place within her. A sense of harvest, of abundance, filled her. She had nothing to do and she waited.

They lay in the holy sun which clothed them, the birds floating over their heads, the sand warm on their ankles, the backs of their legs.  She, too, like Marcel-Maas had arrived. She had arrived at last. A voice of stillness had spoken to her. Like the voice of God, she did not know its source, she only knew she was bidden, which was to taste everything, to see everything with one long, final glance. A calm had come over her, the calm of a great journey ended.

Read to me, she would ask.

In the tall brown grass of the dunes, a pagan couch that overlooked the sea, she sat clasping her knees and listening while Franca read . . .  It was Troyat’s life of Tolstoy, a book like the Bible, so rich in events, in sorrow, in partings, so filled with struggle that strength welled up on every page. The chapters became one’s flesh, one’s own being: the trials washed one clean.  Warm, sheltered from the wind, she listened as Franca’s clear voice described the landscape of Russia, on and on, grew weary at last and stopped. They lay in silence, like lionesses in the dry grass, powerful, sated.

Of them all, it was the true love. Of them all, it was the best. That other, that sumptuous love which made one drunk, which one longed for, envied, believed in, that was not life. It was what life was seeking; it was a suspension of life. But to be close to a child, for whom one spent everything, whose life was protected and nourished by ones own, to have that child beside one, at peace, was the real, the deepest, the only joy. ~ James Salter, Light Years

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from here to eternity: the summer book

photo(7)So I am technically dreaming right now because summer for me is still nearly a month away and just last night I realized I was entering the dizzying vortex of finals: finals weeks . . . three to be exact, with literally hundreds more student papers to touch in some meaningful way.  At this point, really, I just sort of toss them around like balls in the air and hope they don’t bounce back.  So what better way to keep my crazy panic at bay than to dream of that summer book.  Oh, the summer book!  Aren’t you already shopping for yours?  Calling out to all your friend lists.  Tweeting . . . have any recommendations?  I need some summer books!!  Checking out everyone else’s Facebook updates to see what their friends recommend?  Well, last summer I was totally swept away by All That Is by James Salter, and I can’t wait to read his classic 1975 novel Light YearsDescribed as lyrical, iridescent, mystical, magnetic, seductive, witty, elegantly nuanced . . . what more could we ask for in a summer book?

Extraordinary . . . at once tender, exultant, unabashedly sexual, sensual, and profoundly sad.  Light Years is a masterpiece.

~ Elizabeth Benedict, Philadelphia Inquirer

 

mccaullifeThis looks good as well.  Had me at salacious details.

“With Twilight of the Belle Epoque Mary McAuliffe offers a delightful romp through one of the most vibrant periods in French history, even as she elegantly captures the shadows looming on the horizon. Those unfamiliar with this period will be awestruck by its riches, while connoisseurs will delight as McAuliffe brings to life the colorful cast of artists and innovators—from Picasso to Peugeot—who ushered in the twentieth century in the City of Light.” (Rachel Mesch, Yeshiva College; author of Having It All in the Belle Epoque)

“Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Marie Curie and Gertrude Stein are just a few of the creative dynamos who appear in the pages of this new volume—a lively account of an era of literary, artistic and technical innovation that ended with the world-altering tragedy of WWI.” (France Magazine)

“It’s actually not so much a history of a time as a collection of biographies—over 30 of them—of early 20th-century French inventors, politicians, and artists. The author divides the book by year, with each chapter relating significant events in the life of the main subjects during that one year. . . . McAuliffe has an eye for the evocative, using quotes—and salacious details—to bring these early 20th-century men and women to life.” (Library Journal)

 

What’s on your summer reading list?

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