Thursday, February 04, 2010

Book Review: Solo Faces

I had never heard of James Salter or any of his books before I ran into this Slate.com article calling his Solo Faces "the greatest novel ever written about the outdoor life." I'd have to agree, and not just because right now I can't even think of any novels about the outdoor life other than Hatchet, as it seems like most adventure tales I've read have been non-fiction by adventurers who aren't writers. But apparently Salter is actually a decent writer and doesn't sound like an idiot when he talks about rock climbing. He has a very sparse or abbreviated style that reminds me a little of Cormac McCarthy. There isn't a gripping plot arch to this book; basically a dude goes to Chamonix, climbs a bunch, and meets some women, but there is a subtle analysis about why he's living his life the way he is that is wonderful. I recommend it.

A few good lines:
The only thing she said that made him like her was once, in exhaustion,
"You make love like someone in a novel."
After three days he left.
"Where is he?" Colette asked calmly as they were having a conciliatory lunch. She had already forgiven Simone. They were like two patients who have had the same illness.
"I found him extraordinary," Simone admitted. "But he also made me nervous. I never really knew what to talk about with him. He's not exactly a polymath. He knows nothing about politics, art, and yet I found myself perfectly willing to believe in him. Whatever it is, he has it despite himself."
"I think it's mainly an ability to look good in old clothes."

"I told her I'd been climbing for fifteen years. For most of that, ten years anyway, it was the most important thing in my life. It was the only thing. I sacrificed everything to it. Do you know the one thing I learned about climbing? The one single thing?"
"What?"
"It is of no importance whatsoever."

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