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Light Years

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. 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...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

If you want to know what "luminous" means....

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.

elegiac portrait of a marriage and its decay

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.


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. There are the affairs, but even when the most intimate of acts takes place he handles it in a manner that is clear, pure, evocative, but never does he stoop to the profane. His treatment of the females he writes about is done with respect; he does not objectify the women he writes of even if they seem to offer themselves in a manner that would justify the word object. Males and females are flawed, they err, and they can seek answers and redemption, and again he lets you decide, he does not hand down Judgement.This is an amazing writer that I either missed, or many have, as his is some of the best work I have ever read. Comparisons are really unnecessary, take what you like about your favorite writers, and you will find something to love in this man's work.

"I love you as I love the earth, white buildings..."

"...photographs, noons. I adore you." Viri makes up these lines to his lover, Kaya. How do I express this-- what I hold in me of this book? I've read it twice, the first time, I was fifteen and sitting in the back of my parents' car and read it whole in four hours in the heat and dry luster of Northern California summertime. I memorized that line, the above one, and when I fell slowly and inexorably into passionate crazy love with *this other author* I spent long days at the beach, scrawling Salter's lines in the sand with a thin piece of driftwood. Salter captures the dense erotic luster of relationships like no one else. I fell in love with this book. It taught me so many things. Ah, I've forgotten about the second time I read it. Yes, that was something. I read it because I knew I had missed the message the first time around. Thoroughly passion-crazed in my own life, I needed to feel the supple prose slip me into dream-world again. What a lovely book. Ai, and read Salter's *Dusk*, as well.

A heartbreaking portrayl of a marriage

James Salter takes you so deeply inside the marriage of Nedra and Viri that you know these people as well as your own family before the book is done. It is a heartbreaking portrayl of love that turns to mere companionship. The beautiful wife, Nedra, seeks soemthing she cannot attain from her husband, nor from her affairs, nor from fleeing to Europe. She stands as one of the most completely-drawn women in American ficiton, a modern Madame Bovary. As the husband and wife grow apart, their children become aloof, the house they create falls into disrepair. It is the most accurate portrayl of the joys and sadness of modern marriage that I have read
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