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Paperback A Sport and a Pastime : A Novel Book

ISBN: 0374530505

ISBN13: 9780374530501

A Sport and a Pastime : A Novel

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Book Overview

"As nearly perfect as any American fiction I know," is how Reynolds Price ( The New York Times ) described this classic that has been a favorite of readers, both here and in Europe, for almost forty years. Set in provincial France in the 1960s, James Salter's A Sport and a Pastime is the intensely carnal story--part shocking reality, part feverish dream --of a love affair between a footloose Yale dropout and a young French girl. There is the seen...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Even better the second time around

I first read this novel when it was new, in the late sixties, and I liked it because I, too, had been a student in France and had experienced some cross-cultural coupling during those years. I appreciated the evocation of small city life, smoky cafés, dumpy hotels, and all the rest -- and yes, the sex scenes were great. I've just (autumn 2005) reread the novel again, almost forty years down the line, and I discover a profundity and philosophical depth that escaped me the first time around. I hardly know of a book that better describes the mystery of sexuality, and its connection with the deepest questions of existence. And o yes, the descriptions of smoky cafés and the joys of screwing are still there -- it's just that there's a lot more to Salter's work, which merits the highest praise. The author has attempted to create a transcendent legend from the encounter of two ordinary and even shallow people, and he has succeeded. The influences of Hemingway and Miller are evident, but the true model is classical mythology. Five stars, or ten maybe.

A Year of Living Sensually

In the opening pages an unnamed narrator describes the French countryside and small towns he is traveling through by train. The writing is flawless, sharply observant and evocative of a locale and country that is traditionally linked with romance. As the narrator settles into a rented villa and begins to explore the night life of the small village he has decided to spend some time in we become aware of a peculiar habit of mind he has. The narrator likes to imagine the inner and private lives of strangers he meets. This is woven into the narrative in a way that makes it exciting to read as you don't always know just how much of what he relates is observation and how much created out of an imagination fueled by some personal need to embellish. The narrator is dedicated to a life of inaction so much so that he is relieved to find the woman he admires from a distance is no longer available. The books title is taken from the Koran and as Salter says in his autobiography is meant to be ironic as in its context it is meant to refer to the insignificance of this life in comparison to the life to come. But the narrator is no follower of traditional thought or beliefs and his only pastime is that habit of mind. Entering into his world is his exact opposite Dean. Outwardly handsome, exuding a sense of adventure, recently arrived from Spain, and immediately gaining the attention of women he also gainds the attention of our narrator. The two become friends....apparently. For here the clues as to what is observed and what is imagined becomes grey. Nevertheless this is not a distraction, rather it makes for an intriguing complexity to the narrative. Dean is soon involved in an affair which is highly charged, almost purely physical in its nature. Dean and Anne-Marie frolic in every way imaginable, including the favorite way of that most depraved of Frenchman, Sade. All could well be an invented affair but maybe not. The writing is so succinct and yet so rich in detail that as a reader you really don't care. It is a good sexy story. Eventually Dean who has been living out of his rich American fathers pockets must return to America but what a ride it has been. Dean leaves his rare sportscar in the care of our narrator but as soon as Dean is gone the car shows signs of decay. Every detail of this story from the descriptions of the French towns to the weather, which is often foul, to the sex scenes and trips to Paris is exceptionally told. This book has enough interesting aspects to be much longer but unfortunately it does end.

Pure and simple joy!

A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter. North Point Press San Fransisco 1985On the surface this is a love story. Phillip Dean, an American dropout from Yale, and Anne-Mari Costallat, a French shop girl, live and love, love, love... for several months in France. As the observer/narrator tells the story, one is never quite certain whether the narrative is an objective account of the life of Phillip and Anne-Mari or a fabricated wish fulfillment of a frustrated stymied paramour of the beautiful Claude Picquet. In the end it doesn't matter as the story ebbs and flows inexorably and smoothly through the shimmering French countryside to its tragic conclusion.The writing is astounding. I stopped time and again to read and reread passages as the combinations of words and phrases evoked emotions and feelings that I thought not possible given the simplicity and directness of the words. There is a conciseness to both the story and the language. So much is said with so few words that one sometimes regrets that this parsimony of words brings the end too soon. I wanted the novel to continue so I might continue to savor this beautiful writing.A wonderful novel that I will continue to read for years to come.

a diamond in the rough

In the introduction to the Modern Library edition, Salter stated he was trying to write a book of imperishable images and obsessions-- which contrasted the ordinary from the divine. Existential, surreal, expressionist, emotionally abstract, all these terms can be applied inadequately to the result. Set around France, it follows a footloose Yale dropout's relationship with a young shopgirl. It is a passionate shambles of impressions and reflections. The book's sparsity fills volumes. The third person, subjective narrative merges with the thoughts of the protagonist, always focused on sensuality and fragility. Like a dissonance of the will and conscience, it all seems imagined. Braced by precise language, compressed to a critical mass, Salter's withering insights release sudden visual eruptions. This tale is an intensely philosophical look at life, outlined by a passing love affair. Writing that has achieved this level of density and inner light is rare. A Sport and a Pastime sparkles and dazzles!
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