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James Salter, The Art of Fiction No. 133

James Salter, The Art of Fiction No. 133

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Published by The Paris Review
James Salter—our 2011 Revel honoree—talks about the art of fiction in this interview from the Summer 1993 issue.
James Salter—our 2011 Revel honoree—talks about the art of fiction in this interview from the Summer 1993 issue.

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Published by: The Paris Review on Mar 31, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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I did not know what to think; I said there had been somemistake, there was nothing else to Bay. When my father^ /.^^^who was at that tijn9 a colonel stationed in Washington,came to visit 9)?, I nnntiifinii
In him.
I should not have H-ihisexaggeration. His class hadM^gy early, after onlyandfirst captain was a:iB graduated and^coimissionedyear and a half at West Point,returned after the armist^^e for additionalstudy. Since they were then officers, the ranking second
lieutenant among them was,ccnunander. Ci^iii.iwtion ind
theirfrank was in order ofacademic standing, and as first in the class my father hadbeen thB ranking lieutenant. V'e walked on the lawn nearthe Thayer Hotel and I aske^ him to help me, in fact Irecited a troubling passage I had rea^~'that had a tonelike Dover Beach. What was I struggling for and what shouldI believe? IFir"ttDutd iiuL uiiuini-. It would become clear tome later, he said. He was counting on the school to educateme, a process that in his case had never been ccnpleted.Whatever he had Ir6arne^, in any case, he never passed on tome.iia^^^^L
uutuLUiing fur !••• ^•luable, ttdriee>lliere >e an idea that one o«m be changed, that WestPoint could jna1i:e~You an aristocrat. In
way it did bring one (Closer^xo the outdoor life which is the wit^aii. ofthe aristocrat; sport, hunting, MaHp^dd hardship.
_f i riA
Iv/. a SC
It was
*- ___^MeAlower ••AtfSe- class andlam^was gone there was no .privileged world. You were anniiyaaer^f officers. .It ««as, MI.ts)a»aKitaetufe, strict in itsothers by the eminence of itsauthentic connectionnly toa great orphanage, b^iCB^ inand set apart fronsons.
*^ it I
The teachery didnot love the^ pupil/ or the coach the 9akikning, mud-spatteredhalfback. The «ord was never spoken though I often heard itsopposite. In its place was comradeship and a standard that
page from the story
by James
James Salter
The Art of Fiction CXXXIII
James Salter is a consummate storyteller. His manners areprecise and elegant; he has a splendid New York accent; heruns his hands through his gray hair and laughs boyishly. Atsixty-seven he has the fitness of an ex-military man. He tellsanecdotes easily, dramatically, but he also
an aura of
about him. There is a privacy one doesn't breach.Salter was bom in 1923 and raised in New York City. Hegraduated from West Point in 1943 and was commissionedin the U.S. Army Air
as a pilot. He served for twelveyears in the Pacific, the United States, Europe and Korea,where he fiew over one hundred combat missions as a fighter
pilot. He resigned from the Air
after his first novel cameout in 1937, and settled in Grandview on the Hudson, justnorth of New York City. He has earned his living as a writerever since. He has three grown children, a son and two daugh-ters,by a previous marriage. He lives with the writer KayEldredge and their eight-year-old
Theo. They divide theirtime between Aspen, Colorado and Bridgehampton, Long
Salter has published five novels:
The Hunters
TheArm of Flesh
(1961), A
Sport and a Pastime
(1973) and
Solo Faces
(1979). He received an awardfrom the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Lettersin 1982. Five of his stories have appeared in O. Henry collec-tions and one in the
Best American Short Stories.
Other Stories
(1988) received the PEN/Faulkner
It rained continuously during the four
I visitedBridge-hampton in August, 1992, but I
noticed the weather,so content
I to sit at the dining room table asking questionsand listening to
carefully considered answers. Even ongray days the traditional, cedar-shingled two-floor house withits many French doors and windows seemed bathed in light.We drank ice tea by day, and one exquisitely made martinieach night (Salter at one point estimated that he
martinis in his
company came for dinner;many bottles of wine were
the interviewer wan-dered off to examine the framed menus on the wall, the etch-ing of two bathers by Andre de Segonzac, the miniature paint-ing by Shendan Lord of the landscape near the house.Salter writes in a study on the second floor, a small, airyroom with a peaked ceiling and a half-moon window. Hisdesk
a large wooden country-trestle table made of old pine.Everywhere there
telltale signs of the memoir he has beenworking on for the past
—envelopes that have beenscrawled on, scraps of paper that have been entirely coveredwith his minute handwriting. On the morning that I
leftalone in the study I found well-thumbed
of Nabokov's

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