In our books, we talk about the enormous importance – and difficulty – of having a good Third Act. If you care at all about serious writing, and Third Acts, I urge you to read about my friend, Jim Salter and his amazing, new novel, ALL THAT IS, in tomorrow’s New York Times Book Review, Sunday, April 28th.
Listen to this: “Salter is 87, with a reputation so secure he has noting left to prove. If there were a Mount Rushmore for writers, he’d be there already.” Then this: “Apparently no one told Salter, who, with the publication of his new novel, ‘All That Is,’ an ambitious departure from his previous work, has demolished any talk of twilight with a single stroke. … [The book is] strikingly original, vigorous proof that this literary lion is still very much on the prowl.” It goes on at length about what a wonderful book this is and what a remarkable writer Salter is. Read the review… get the book.
I have been crazy about Salter for a long time. We have skied, dined, had martinis (his other great gift) and talked for years. I had always loved his writing and his company and was awed by the boldness of his second act. Briefly, he graduated from West Point in 1945, stayed in the Air Force and was a jet fighter pilot in Korea. He shot down MIG’s … became a Lt. Colonel and had a brilliant career ahead of him. Then quit, cold, to write exquisite, highly literate books (and a couple of movies) which had a huge success in literary and other circles. That was an astonishing leap and he pulled it off with exquisite grace. He wouldn’t tell you this but he cares about grace and he has lived his life with a ton of it.
In recent years, I had begun to worry a little. He’s almost ten years older than I am, he had serious back problems (fixed, more or less miraculously, in a recent operation) and he had become much less interested in skiing. Hell, he was less interested in martinis. This winter (before the operation), he did not rise to make the ritual martini with which he had greeted me at his and Kay’s house in Aspen for decades. Oh Lord, I thought; he is getting old. And I’m next. He had written some beautiful stories in recent times but I assumed that he was winding down.
Which is not unheard of, at 87… what the hell. But then this… this bomb-shell of a book. Beautiful, ambitious, hard-written, smart. All new stuff and deeply creative. Hard, hard, new work, done when he was deep in his 80’s. He has been flying those twilight skies with hunter’s eyes at 500 miles an hour… tanks getting low. And come home with this! How I love it.
For him, for me, for everyone who reads… for everyone who thinks about being alive and real, all the way to the waterfall, it is some story. YOUNGER NEXT YEAR, my man… YOUNGER NEXT YEAR! That’s Jim Salter. Read the book. Rejoice in the man. And…just a guess…it ain’t over yet.
Here’s the link to the review: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/books/review/all-that-is-by-james-salter.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0