First published nearly a quarter-century ago and one of the very few short-story collections to win the PEN/Faulkner Award, this is American fiction at its most vital - each narrative a masterpiece of sustained power and seemingly effortless literary grace. Two New York attorneys newly flush with wealth embark on a dissolute tour of Italy; an ambitious young screenwriter unexpectedly discovers the true meaning of art and glory; a ruder, far off in the fields, is involved in an horrific accident - night is falling, and she must face her destiny alone. These stories confirm James Salter as one of the finest writers of our time.
Salter's elegant prose is ideally suited to the short story form. The author of five novels (A Sport and a Pastime, Light Years) here reaches a new height of grace and breathtaking virtuosity. His settings are evoked in perfectly chosen detail and his characters, almost all denizens of the most privileged class, are defined with the same unerring precision. In these 11 short narratives, Salter intentionally paints brilliantly sunny scenes of romance and luxurious comfort, only to reveal through his characters a darkening dusk brought on by doubt, emotional disarray and the vagaries of human imperfection. In "Foreign Shores'' a pleasant Dutch au pair is slowly discovered to have ``the morals of a housefly'' by her embittered employer, who sees her little boy embrace the departing disgraced girl and comments, ``They always love sluts.'' In ``American Express'' two young hotshot lawyers travel through Europe seeking something that becomes impossible to define, much less find. In ``Fields at Dusk'' an attractive woman in her 40s confronts loneliness and loss: ``She was a woman who lived a certain life. She knew how to give dinner parties, take care of dogs, enter restaurants . . . . She was a woman who had read books, played golf, gone to weddings, whose legs were good, who had weathered storms, a fine woman whom no one now wanted.'' Salter is a fine writer working at the top of his form.