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Light Years [Paperback]

James Salter
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 31 1995 Vintage International
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.

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Review

“Extraordinary . . . at once tender, exultant, unabashedly sexual, sensual, and profoundly sad. Light Years is a masterpiece.”
—Elizabeth Benedict, Philadelphia Inquirer
 
“Remarkable. . . . Salter celebrates the silver-and-golden bitterness of life. Light Years . . . becomes an unexpectedly moving ode to beautiful lives frayed by time.”
—James Wolcott, Esquire
 
“[A] twentieth-century masterpiece. At once iridescent, lyrical, mystical and magnetic.”
Bloomsbury Review
 
“An absolutely beautiful, monstrous, important book.”
—Joy Williams

About the Author

James Salter was born in 1925 and grew up in New York City on Manhattan's Upper East Side. He graduated from West Point in 1945 and began a twelve-year stint in the Air Force, much of it as a fighter pilot. After flying combat in Korea, he was assigned to air squadrons in Europe and there began writing. He resigned his commission after the publication of his first novel in 1956. A second novel appeared in 1961, and his reputation was established with A Sport and a Pastime. In 1989 his collection of short stories, Dusk and Other Stories, won the PEN/Faulkner Award. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you want to know what "luminous" means.... Aug. 12 2003
Format:Paperback
The main characters are named Viri and Nedra, and Lord knows that signals "pretentious." Ignore all that. No one writes about what happens between men and women better than Salter; you can see your own relationships in the 308 pages it takes to track the glory and fall of this marriage between an architect and his thin, troubled wife. And the sense of place! Here he is on the lure the Hamptons held for Nedra: "She was a creature of blue, flawless days, the sun of their noons hot as the African coast, the chill of the nights immense and clear." I started the book in that place on a morning so grey the sky and ocean merged; I read through the rain; I finished at night. A day well spent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a favorite May 29 2004
Format:Paperback
This is one of my favorite novels--and one I recommend over and over to friends. Salter's prose is beautiful, limpid, and elegant, and his portrait of life in New York is exquisitely precise, even painful. Each page is full of the kind of sentences you want to write down. It's a novel that has to be read anyone who loves language.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Is the reality ever as good as the fantasy? Aug. 9 2002
By *Q*
Format:Paperback
I'd give this book 4 1/2 stars if I could!! This book knocked my socks off. This is not unusual material, every other book is about fading relationships. Salter describes the every day life of the married couple, Nedra and Viri whom are acting out a marriage rather than being in it. Their affections wandering and alienated. The content is sad but so eloquently displayed before you that you sometimes forget the seriousness of the plot. Oh, and then those beautiful dancing words.... taking you completly by surprise. Salter paints scenic backgrounds where daily life exists, such as in Chapter 2 it begins;
In the morning the light came is silence. The house slept. The air overhead, glittering, it's richness, it's density, bathe in the air like a stream.
The character's were annoying because they had a wonderful life but they just couldn't see it, they seemed immature and non committal. Both of them cheated not only on each other but on themselves.
The question is, is the reality ever as good as the fantasy?
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5.0 out of 5 stars elegiac portrait of a marriage and its decay July 13 2001
Format:Paperback
Like Salter's other books and stories, Light Years is elegiac and haunting. Captures a feeling for a time in post-WWII America when hopes were high, all things seemed possible. An excellent portrayal of the interior life of a marriage, and the subjects of betrayal and separation, lust, and aging.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Courage Feb. 12 2001
Format:Paperback
The courage to live life as it changes, as the faults that went unseen in the initial rush of novelty emerge, to adapt, continue and be happy, content, this I believe is the heart of this work. The small imperfections that erode to fatal flaws as the years pass, the union of marriage that grows old, and regret and a desire for something new becomes an obsession. And if the freedom is regained can it ever be as it was anticipated. How can anything desired for years, embellished and romanticized for decades ever deliver contentment?
The marriage of Nedra and Viri act more like a parenthetical that contains the entire novel and its events, than they serve as the focal point. The dozens of friends on almost as many levels of intimacy all revolve around the married couple, the former couple, or the individuals they believe they become for a second time. Is contentment the equivalent of stagnation; is it predestined for most, or voluntary for the few?
Mr. Salter continues in, "Light Years", what he has done in all 3 of the novels I have read thus far. The people he creates transcend whatever story he presents them in. The personalities he creates are wonderful not because they entertain with their uniqueness or their contrived eccentricities, but because of how normal they are, or perhaps familiar. This is not to suggest they are cliché, they are everything but that, they are people you know, people you may meet, or a character that you find a part of you is within.
One of the beauties of what this man is capable of with his writing is reaching very deeply into the thoughts and fears that inhabit almost all of us. He does not presume, he does not judge or lecture, he just lets you look through your minds eye, and decide for yourself.
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5.0 out of 5 stars perfect prose Sept. 13 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Simply put, this is the the most lyrical and stylistically perfect American novel since _The Great Gatsby_. Read it and re-read it, recommend it to friends. If they don't get it, it isn't Salter's fault!
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2.0 out of 5 stars ghost characters March 18 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Salter's poetic prose at times reads too precious. Characters come and go, are left behind- vanish, in a picaresque of loss and despair. What kept me reading was Salter's evocative description of place. He has the ability to distill the essence of geography with the skill of a cartographer while holding fast to the invisible details that bring a terrain to life. Perhaps I am faulting Salter for the book he in fact aimed to write. Light Years is about what the poet John Ashberry calls "time's silent roar" and its indifference to all within earshot of its muted din. Salter's vaporous characters inhabit a ghost-like nether world intimating with each jaded aside: "We are here only for so long, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it." They remain on the page, never jumping full to life- obscure, shadowed, and with the pall of death lingering over them like a coming storm.
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