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Paperback Solo Faces Book

ISBN: 0140055649

ISBN13: 9780140055641

Solo Faces

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Book Overview

This novel exposes the obsession that draws climbers away from civilization to test themselves against the most intimidating and inaccessible mountains in the world. James Salter captures the adventure of Gary, a roofer of churches, who feels restrained by conventions and flat ground. Unable to find happiness in his life, he travels to southern France to climb to the summits of the Alps. He finds peace and happiness within himself soon after. But...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Ironies of lonely heroism

James Salter's novel tells the story of Rand, a solitary man in his late 20s, with a fatal attraction to mountain climbing. We meet him on a hot, hazy day doing a roofing job on a church in Los Angeles. Quiet, focused, he watches warily the heedless young man working with him and then catches him just in the last moment as he falls from the roof. This same drama plays out again later in the novel, as Rand saves the lives of other mountain climbers, high in the French Alps, in wintry, bone chilling conditions. One case of heroics makes him a media celebrity, and for a time he is an American in Paris enjoying his 15 minutes of fame. But the time passes, and he returns again to the austere, stoic life of a climber, growing older, with no assets, no home, no one who will love him on his own terms. He has only his desire to continue climbing and the need to take ever greater risks. Emptied of every other need, his lonely heroism is an ironic portrayal of the individual who strives against all odds to achieve impossible goals. Salter's writing style is crystal clear, always vivid. He tries for no special effects, just a precise choice of words, sentence after sentence, and an unblinking eye for detail. If you have the slightest trepidation about heights, the descriptions of the climbs make your heart race. Master of his matter-of-fact style, Salter moves beyond emotion and the romance of adventure to capture the excitement of being fully in the present moment and intensely alive.

Reading on the edge

James Salter is one of America's finest writers, and his skills here match his other books.Climbing and the inmost soul are Salter's subjects here, and he captures both with unerring eye and literary skills. Because he never overwrites, the casual reader may not fully appreciate the challenges that the author meets so elegantly. God and the devil are in the details, and in climbing (as in flying, about which Salter has written so well) lack of attention to detail can kill in instants. Readers who are also writers will slowly become aware of the fact that Salter never puts a word wrong and never uses more words than are necessary to communicate with the soul. Reading such work is reminiscent of looking at a seemingly simple but beautiful piece of sculpture or mechanical object in which every last detail has been honed to perfection and does its job correctly.Why does this matter? Because if one reads the current wretched messes masquerading as quality fiction, for example in the NEW YORKER, one gets the sense of being asked to become involved in descriptions of navel lint, or more often of being asked to empathize with silly and unsympathetic people devoid of lives that involve risk.So what has Salter done with SOLO FACES that transcends the current (02) wrtechedness? He puts us deep in the heart and soul, and makes us care about what these people are doing, and why. The climbing descriptions, despite being low key, will induce in the reader a sense of physical involvement that is (probably) measureable physiologically (heart rate, GSR, etc.). Anyone who wants to climb the Eiger is not sane, but deeply to be respected.

A View from the Top of the World

This great book by Salter who has authored many great books may just be his best. The book is about rock climbing. That sport is the most extreme of the extreme sports but also the most solitary and therefore most spiritual and lyrical as it is so often done alone and any mistake is almost certainly a fatal one. The book begins on the top of a church in L.A. where our main character Rand is doing yet another impermanent odd job in an equally impermanent location repairing roofs for a summer, a situation that allows him to retain his most cherished possession, his freedom. And the ultimate expression of that freedom is climbing. Nothing holds Rand for long, no place and no woman, and so very soon in the novel he is off to the Swiss and French Alps, locations of some of the most heralded peaks including the sheer faced obelisks, the Eiger and the Dru. The book is full of climbing lore(including one mountain rescue based in fact) and that great theme of man versus nature as well as the writing style recalls Conrad and Hemingway. Salters sense of adventure as well as his aptitude to tell a story perfectly recalls both authors, but he has his own style and what he does with this adventure tale is completely his own. Salter shows the great romantic appeal of his hero Rand and he also shows the singular nature of such a character and how a life dedicated to legendary feats and life-in-peril daring can leave a man at some remove from others. The minor characters include climbing friends and the various women involved in Rand's love affairs. Though each of them a brief episode only the love episodes are poignant as they more than any other part of the book show how unreachably alone romantic Rand really is. Subtle scenes between men and women who say very little to each other but feel very real is something Salter is especially good at. Very very highly recommended to outdoor enthusiasts and lovers of pristine sentences strung gracefully together and which seem to catch the hard glint of the mountain sun itself. Salter is an author who has only written five novels,one story collection, and a memoir, each one is very much worth your while.

Individual Again

The first novel I read by Mr. Salter was, "The Hunters", which while deemed a novel was the result of his experiences as a combat pilot in Korea. In, "Solo Faces", he again describes an activity that ultimately is as lonely as being the sole occupant of a fighter aircraft. The primary difference would appear to be that climbing and all the danger involved, no matter how compulsive the desire to do it, is voluntary. It is true that in both instances there is a measure of safety, the climber is roped to another; on belay his safety in the hands of another. In Korea his character would have a wingman that was never to leave him, again was his measure of protection. Climbing partners fall, wingmen get shot down, ultimately the pilot and the climber are alone.Again he explores the human motivation of those who climb, the less savory aspects of fellow climbers and the horrific results that can occur. The circle is expanded this time as more space is given to the effect the activity has on those who the climber is personally involved with, who cares about his health. Again the pilot was at war, he was not voluntarily flying dozens and dozens of missions. The climber is where he is by choice, so the fear and concern the activities generate may have similar names, but what catalyzes the emotions is fundamentally different.Mr. Salter's writing is an amazing study of people. He certainly selects an environment that causes a description of what they do and why they do it to be appropriate. For me in these first two novels it is the people you remember more than the circumstances. It is not that the stories lack strength, quite the contrary; his people are just so fascinating.

A quest for inner strength and satisfaction

The saga of a man who feels restrained by conventions and flat ground. Unable to find peace in the heights of his job as a roofer of churches he travels to southern France to assault the Alps. Climbing alone he negotiates the granite faces of the mountains until he takes on their majestic qualities himself. When a friend is trapped on the mountain, he makes a daring one man rescue during a storm that brings him the notice he has always shunned. But glory is fleeting and he returns to the anonymity he prefers having satisfied the only person of importance in his life, himself. This superbly written prose includes a description of being struck by lightning that is so vivid that you feel it. Salter is without question one of America's great writers and this is one of his best
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