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All That Is Paperback – 19 Jun 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Main Market Ed. edition (19 Jun. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447238273
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447238270
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 54,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A beautiful novel, with sufficient love, heartbreak, vengeance, identity confusion, longing, and euphoria of language to have satisfied Shakespeare.' John Irving

'The best novel I’ve read in years. All That Is will be treasured by its readers. Salter’s vivid, lucid prose does exquisite justice to his subject―the relentless struggle to make good on our own humanity. Once again he has delivered to us a novel of the highest artistry.' Tim O’Brien

Effortlessly beautiful, funny, sexy and wise - the kind of novel that makes you want to delete your own meagre work-in-progress and start over. Is there a How to Write Like Salter Handbook? If so, that's what I want for Christmas, please. (Julie Myerson, Books of the Year Observer)

Not in my (admittedly failing) memory have I read a novel that, at its crucialest moment, made me just stand straight up out of my chair and have to walk around the room for several minutes. Laid into the customary Salterish verbal exquisiteness and vivid intelligence is such remarkable audacity and dark-hued verve about us poor humans. It's a great novel. (Richard Ford, Books of the Year Guardian)

Masculine, clear-cut, ravishingly sensual (Books of the Year Sunday Telegraph)

I loved James Salter's beguiling, brilliant, worldly, sexy novel All That Is (Simon Sebag Montefiore, Books of the Year Evening Standard)

'This masterpiece is a smooth, absorbing narrative studded with bright particulars. If God is in the details, this book is divine.' Edmund White

'Enthralling . . . A vividly imagined and beautifully written evocation of a postwar world.' John Banville

'A consistently elegant and enjoyable novel, full of verve and wisdom.' Julian Barnes

'Richard Ford calls him 'the Master', Bellow was an admirer, Roth, too . . . Salter's first novel in more than 30 years . . . is set in the golden years of post-war America and is studded with magnificent portraits of minor characters, their whole essences captured, somehow, in a gesture and two lines of dialogue.' Daily Telegraph

'All That Is, which tells the story of a navy veteran and literary publisher, Philip Bowman , over a period of some 40 years, has a grandeur that is all its own. Its handling of time, its elliptical wisdom, and its occasional chest-tightening cruelties are masterful; every paragraph is quietly, carefully good. On the page, moreover, anyone can be young. It is an inordinately vigorous novel. So much feeling. So much sex.' Observer

'If any living writer has earned the right to name a novel All That Is, it is James Salter. His latest novel . . . tells the story of Philip Bowman, a Harvard-educated US Navy veteran who becomes a New York book editor durign the great flowering of American letters in the 1950s and 1960s . . . Salter's breathlessly simple prose is often exquisite. His episodic structure results in a number of memorable set-pieces. The trip Bowman and Enid take to Spain in the early days of their affair proves as richly sensual as anything Hemingway wrote.' Sunday Times

'In telling this drama, Salter gives us joy, eroticism, disgust, beauty, nostalgia, outrage, highbrow discussion and lowbrow humour. There are moments of crushing tragedy. . . followed later by lines of wry comedy . . . Throughout, the story is populated with rich and living characters who stand at the centre of our gaze . . . What you read stays with you and invites you back in . . . Salter has produced a novel that will last longer than the distractions that might keep us from it.' The Times

Salter's first novel in more than 30 years, which follows the loves and losses of a World War II veteran, is an ambitious departure from his previous work and, at a stroke, demolishes any talk of twilight. (100 Notable Books of 2013 New York Times)

The first Salter novel for more than 30 years is a rare treat for fans of his distinctive prose. All That Is follows Philip Bowman from a Second World War battle fleet into the publishing worlds of New York and London and the beds of many women. The main attraction is not the narrative, though - it's the beauty of Salter's words. (Books of the Year Financial Times)

‘Salter is the contemporary writer most admired and envied by other writers . . . he can, when he wants, break your heart with a sentence’ Michael Dirda, Washington Post

‘James Salter can suggest in a single sentence an individual’s entire history’ Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

‘There is scarcely a writer alive who could not learn from his passion and precision of language’ Peter Matthiessen

‘Salter is a writer who particularly rewards those for whom reading is an intense pleasure. He is among the very few North American writers all of whose work I want to read, whose as yet unpublished books I wait for impatiently.’ Susan Sontag

'A sweeping, precise, heartfelt and wondrous tale of American life, a book that somehow manages to deal with everyday existence, yet elevate that familiar tale to something deep and profound . . . here Salter is brilliant at evoking the mundane buzz and thrum of existence, and he does so in terse, clipped prose that somehow courses with a life all its own.' Big Issue

'Salter's descriptions of places are second to none.' Daily Express

'In James Salter's terrific new novel . . . we've followed him unhurriedly through several decades of love affairs, friendships and foreign travels - all of them rendered with astonishing concision and jolting vividness.' Daily Mail

'In All That Is, the simplest lines hit the hardest . . . Salter describes with perfect clarity the brutal new awareness that comes of heartbreak..' Sunday Herald

'American literary favourite Salter, who has been credited as an influence by writers such as Joyce Carol Oates releases his first novel since 1979 . . . It's official: no one writes about war, love and sex like he does. Unmissable.' Easy Living

'All That Is is the story of a life . . . it is a river that meanders, that surges ahead and then is becalmed. It has many tributaries; one of the great pleasures of Salter is the way he dives into the lives of minor characters, spending a few paragraphs on someone who wondered into the action for a moment, telling you everything you ever need to know about them, then leaving them be. And in all that spare, elegant, shimmering prose, those sentences long and short that seem to expand and compress time itself.' Esquire

'All That Is is the equal of such great novels as A Sport and a Pastime, Light Years and his memoir, Burning the Days. That is to say, it is delectable . . . Salter switches freely between foreground and background, incisive generalisation and precise detail, intense moments of lived experience and great swathes of time passing unremarked. A story that, treated more conventionally, could have been so much longer and less affecting is refracted here into points of light, moments of intense feeling, the memories that constitute us. The way Salter writes implies an attitude to life, even down to the level of the single sentence. He is that good.' Evening Standard

'Salter has produced a strange masterpiece.' Independent i

'All That Is gobbles the whole arc of a man's lifetime as its subject . . . The everyday may be one of the hardest things to write about - the quotidian doings, including the outright tedium, of ordinary life . . . But to pull it off . . . to indelibly record the trivial and the portentous with the same ravenous affection, thereby persuading us that there may be no difference between the two when assaying the worth of a life or divining its mystery - that is a crowning achievement and it's Mr. Salter's to claim.' International Herald Tribune

'He makes every word count.' Literary Review

'Part of the Roth/Updike/Bellow generation of Great American Novelists, James Salter deserves a place among them: All That Is should finally gain him membership. This haunting novel tells the story of Philip Bowman, an officer in the Pacific War who returns to America and a career as a publisher. At 87, Salter has never written better.' Mail on Sunday

'All That Is has few equals . . . Rhapsodic and marvelling, with a treasurable lack of cynicism and a 1950s-ish directness, Salter's style is sensory without being exactly lyrical . . . Although he likes to linger over impressions, he is rarely wasteful.' New Statesman

We join Philip Bowman in his young navy days off Okinawa, but these exploits last only a chapter before he returns home to concentrate on the two aspects of his life that dominate All That Is – his career as a book editor in New York, and his relationships with women. There is one marriage and several affairs, Salter weaving together the sensual and the emotional in this thread that winds its way through Bowman’s life to the point we leave him, in his mid 50s. It is an easy novel to enjoy thanks to Salter’s mastery of language and an attention to detail that brings even minor characters to life.' Sunday Mercury

'Salter is very good at showing the inconsequentiality of so much that happens . . . Salter is good on the selfishness and carelessness of the rich - there's an echo of Scott Fitzgerald here - and the neediness of the poor . . . Salter shows us

how little of what we once thought mattered greatly comes eventually not to matter at all. This is quite comforting and at the same time exhilarating. One of the many attractive things about this novel is that it deals in pleasures.' Scotsman

'Salter's genius has been to invoke the ancient muses to chant about modern existence, making the ordinary revelatory of heroism, tragedy and mystery in a secular world . . . All That Is suggests a testament both new and old. It conforms to his other fiction in that it depicts quotidian lives positioned against the background of archaic values, mysterious forces and transcendent possibilities.' Times Literary Supplement

Salter at his bitter-sweet best (Books of the Year New Statesman)

All That Is by James Salter is, no question, the best novel I have read this year - by a lot. Yes, yes, of course ... the sentences. But then ... the sentences. As well as the large historical vision from the 1950s to now; New York and Paris deliciously evoked; wonderful louts of both the male and female varieties; some extremely bad behaviour going nicely unpunished. And continuous authorial decisions about just what happens next that'll absolutely drop your jaw in admiration. (Richard Ford, Books of the Year Financial Times)

The most brilliant novel I have read in years. Surgically precise, yet embracing vast landscapes of elusive love, death and sex, it distils whole lives into a single page. I felt more alive, more fully myself, when I finished it. (Caroline Daniel, The FT's Summer Books 2015 Financial Times)

Book Description

A major new novel from the universally acclaimed master and PEN/Faulkner winner James Salter. A sweeping, seductive love story set in the years after World War II.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Eliza Gregory on 28 May 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ignore the gushing reviews. This novel is awful. Salter is, or rather was, a wonderful writer and has produced several memorable books, but this is really nothing like his best work. It is unfocussed, uneven and devoted to an outlook which is likely to make many readers cringe with embarrassment.

On the surface, the novel is about the life of a man searching for love. It sounds promising enough, but actually we know so little about him that we don't really care one way or the other. Also, the search is mainly about sex. He has sex with various beautiful women and then, when things go wrong, he has sex with someone else. The dominant tone is elegaic and the supreme moments of his life take place either immediately before or immediately after sex with someone he doesn't know that well. Otherwise, his life appears to be completely blank, almost as if he has been lobotomised. He goes go Spain, for instance, and has sex with someone called Enid. Salter writes: "The light in the Ritz made her beautiful. The sound of her high heals. There is no other, there will never be another." That, for Salter, is the existential pinnacle of a man's life: a man watching a beautiful woman he has just has sex with, while reflecting on her irreplaceability and/or the ephemerality of things in general. We are told, ad nauseum, that we always lose what he have and can never recapture our moments of splendour.

The sex writing itself is among the worst I have ever encountered and often flirts with incomprehensibility.

"They made love as if it were a violent crime, he holding her by the waist, half woman, half vase, adding weight to the act. She was crying in agony like a dog near death."

That is pretty bad, but it does make sense, just about.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Miss Jacalyn A. Leedham on 12 Aug. 2013
Format: Hardcover
Chris Power quotes Elmore Leonard as saying 'if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it' What a pity the author of this book didn't follow his nostrum. Eliza Gregory, in a previous review, has done a much more accomplished (and witty) job than I could ever do in detailing the examples of lumpen writing in this book. To be fair the first chapter did grip me. And I was convinced i was in for a treat but after that I'm with Eliza Gregory all the way (although i am unwilling these days to persevere with any book I find really bad to the bitter end and didn't come any where finishing as opposed to getting finished with this book.) I should probably end here but I wonder if anyone else found both the main character and the author's attitude towards him creepy, offensive and disturbing? (I love books with a creepy anti-hero or heroine and have no problems with Humbert Humbert for instance - but this felt as though i was expected to admire the dull and self satisfied Philip Bowman. So I'm with the reviewer who put the book down and couldn't pick it up again. Wish I could have given this book a minus star because i am so fed up with great literary figures who are so in love with themselves and who write such pointless stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Zipster Zeus on 3 Aug. 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
James Salter has produced some good work but unfortunately this isn't a good representation of it.

The story charts the live and loves of the central character Phillip Bowman the period post WW2. He has a lot of dinners, attends various literary events, has a lot of sex [but can't find real lurrrvvveee] and that, really, is about it.

The awful sex scenes have already been nicely detailed by another reviewer I see, so won't dwell on that, but all in all quite frankly, this is just in places very badly written and well...boring. I know I am hard these days on literary novels- it seems as if when that genre tag is applied, everyone must bow down and accept bad fiction as 'Art' and critical facilities must be suspended- but too many literary establishment names are getting away with shoddy work these days, and unfortunately this book strays too often into that territory. No substance, no real comment on the world beyond the [in the end terminally boring] self-absorption of Bowman, and I fear another author trading on his name and past glories. If you are new to Salter try his earlier work, it's much more rewarding.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By J. Reynolds on 7 July 2014
Format: Paperback
This is bad. I agree with the other one star critics. But I just had to add something: it is all so digressive.

The writing is like this: let's talk about Bowman, and what he is like, here is his new gal, forget Bowman, let's talk about her for a bit, here is her father, forget the girl, let's talk about the father for a bit, here is the father's sexual conquest, let's talk about her for a while, here is that girl's pony, let's talk about that pretty pony for a while.

Ok, the pony part didn't happen. But I wasn't sure it wouldn't! We never actually get to know the character, because Salter's unorganized mind fixes on some other character. And...just as we think 'OK, I'll give this character a try...' he moves on to the character's cousin or the brother-in-law, or the brother-in-law's work friends or whatever.

I'm not kidding. We move from bowman to vivian to her dad to her dad's cousin to her husband to her brother to his friends to someone else. Who cares? Who the heck cares? Especially when there is no plot.

When there is no plot, you need some real good characters. And it seems Salter cares about as much for his characters as he does his sock drawer, these on, these off, these on, these off.

Try Rules of Civility instead. There is not much plot in that book, but great characters and the author sticks with them.
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