Light Years

Light Years

Book - 1995
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Random House, Inc.
The discussion topics, author biography, and bibliography that follow are meant to enhance your group's reading of James Salter's Light Years. We hope that they will provide you with new ways of looking at--and talking about--a novel that has engrossed readers since its original publication in 1975 and that has contributed to its author's reputation as one of the most radiant prose stylists at work in the English language. Even the most cursory reading of this book makes it clear that Salter is also a supernaturally acute observer of the subatomic fields that flicker between men and women as they fall in and out of love. He is a novelist with the unblinking gaze of a scientist.
This exquisite, resonant novel by PEN/Faulkner winner James Salter is a brilliant portrait of a marriage by a contemporary American master. It is the story of Nedra and Viri, whose favored life is centered around dinners, ingenious games with their children, enviable friends, and near-perfect days passed skating on a frozen river or sunning on the beach. But even as he lingers over the surface of their marriage, Salter lets us see the fine cracks that are spreading through it, flaws that will eventually mar the lovely picture beyond repair. Seductive, witty, and elegantly nuanced, Light Years is a classic novel of an entire generation that discovered the limits of its own happiness—and then felt compelled to destroy it.

Publisher: Random House, 1995
Edition: First Vintage International ed
ISBN: 9780679740735
Characteristics: 308 p ; cm


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Jan 30, 2018

This is a novel that drifts, like fallen leaves swirling along on a slow, meandering stream. There's hardly anything that could be called a plot. A cavalcade of incidental characters wander on and off the stage; light go up; scene changes occur. It's at times cinematic, often dream-woven, introspective. Salter clearly has a love affair with NYC and the country residences up the Hudson Valley; that setting permeates his prose (and he's less effective in scenes set elsewhere). Much has been written about Salter's prose and it is indeed spectacular: startlingly acute phrases saying much in a very few elegantly crafted words. If you appreciate brilliant writing, this book is for you. That said however, there are problems:
Although the two protagonists are skillfully and inventively drawn, I found them not particularly interesting people: upper middle class New Yorkers who are ultimately inconsequential. They pursue their privileged lives without understanding how blessed they are in the grand scheme of things. They feel unfulfilled and in the end all they leave behind to justify their existence are their two daughters. It's a sad tale and I found the first two parts to be essentially a long preliminary, a set-up for what takes place toward the end. Four stars on the strength of Salter's exceptional prose.

Nwagner Jan 13, 2011

Lovely, lyrical, heartbreaking story of a marriage and its dissolution.

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robertrweller Jun 12, 2014

robertrweller thinks this title is suitable for All Ages


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