Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Foreign Shores – James Salter

James Salter - June 10, 1925

Salter’s inclusion by Updike should come as no surprise to those familiar with the works of both authors.

I felt that this was a very masculine story even though it was soaked with two strong female characters. Surprising to me, I felt that the young boy in the story was the strongest of the characters – his presence - his limited lines - they carried a power.

I like the way Salter writes. If you are familiar with my writings here on this journal, you should have a general idea of the sort of writing that I am attracted to. I do enjoy the beautiful turn of phrase and a classical style…but at the same time, I like the brute force of a nice string of sentences that startle the reader. I don’t disapprove the use of a startling scene or a situation that makes the reader uncomfortable (sexually…or morally) because I think that this technique employed correctly by a writer is what makes literature so…well…damn good ( see the works of Joyce Carol Oates). Salter is another writer where I can say “if I were a writer…I’d like to write like him”.

Letters and their contents.

It’s unfortunate that letter writing has fallen out of our culture. Rather than finding a drawer full of letters hiding secrets (as in this story), we find unlocked email accounts and steamy text messages on cell phones.

Electronic characters rather than ink scratched into paper.

Messages that can disappear in old electronic archive folders hidden behind passwords never to be seen by a son or daughter searching for the origins of her parent’s relationship.

We have become so good at hiding who we are – who we choose to present to the world. It’s nearly impossible to really know another person.

Husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, parents and best friends – all remain a mystery to each other for entire lifetimes.

It can be what makes relationships so wonderful – the exploration…or so tragic – the discovery.

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