James Salter’s novel All That Is came out last month, and many articles about it have quoted Richard Ford’s comment that Salter “writes American sentences better than anyone writing today.” Does he deserve that praise? You be the judge.
Here are 10 sentences from All That Is and from Salter’s PEN/Faulkner Award–winning Dusk and Other Stories:
From All That Is
“It was a departure of foreboding, like the eerie silence that precedes a coming storm.”
“Eerie silence” is a cliché, and “coming” in that sentence is redundant.
“It’s too peaceful.” [A sailor just before a kamikaze strike on his ship]
Cavalrymen say this before the Apaches attack in cowboy movies.
“He had no system for gambling, he bet on instinct, some men seem to have a gift for it.”
Meet the king of the comma splices.
“Her buttocks were glorious, it was like being in a bakery …”
“Her husband-to-be was smiling as she came towards him, Sophie was smiling, nearly everyone was.”
Apart from the comma splices: What’s with the British spelling of “towards,” which appears 36 times in this novel about an American man? It’s “toward” in American English. The book also uses “backwards” instead of the American “backward.”
From Dusk and Other Stories
“Forty-six. … She would never be any younger.”
In other words, she’s just like the rest of us who will never be any younger.
“Of course, she was nervous. She was thirty.”
See a theme developing?
“He was wildly generous, he seemed to care nothing for money, it was crumpled in his pockets like waste paper, when he paid for things it would fall to the floor.”
More comma splices.
“She was a woman who had read books, played golf, gone to weddings, whose legs were good, who had weathered storms, a fine woman whom no one now wanted.”
When he says “no one now wanted,” he means, “no man now wanted.”
“Her most useful friend was a hysterical woman named Mirella Ricci, who had a large apartment and aristocratic longings, also the fears and illnesses of women who live alone.”
Women have their uses, even if they’re “hysterical? And what are those unspecified “fears and illnesses of women who live alone”? They can’t be worse than the “fears and illnesses” of men who live alone, who die younger and are less healthy than their female peers.
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© 2013 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.