A soldier returns from battles on the Pacific front and applies what he learned in WWII to the gritty world of publishing in New York City. Salter’s prose is startlingly muscular and economical. Sometimes there’s little on the page beyond raw power.
All That Is (Vintage) is PEN/Faulkner-winning Salter (A Sport and a Pastime, The Hunters) at his very best. How can a book this physically slight be this dazzling? War, peace, love, hate and raw, destructive ambition. Every detail is meaningful and every passage seems carefully wrought and effortlessly shared. Even the historical backdrop skillfully highlights not only how far we’ve traveled, but how little we’ve changed.
This is one of those books that has been very difficult to write about. James Salter’s first novel in 30 years so fills me with a desire to reach for hyperbole, even while the story itself is ultimately so simple, it’s difficult to explain. I’ll keep it simple and say it this way: All That Is may be the best book from a master. ◊
Jones Atwater is a musician, sports fanatic and struggling author. He lives in Ohio with his Fender Stratocaster, Pearl, and his cat, Rhea.