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Burning the Days [Unabridged] [Paperback]

James Salter
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

2 Mar 2007

‘The true chronicler of my life, a tall, soft-looking man with watery eyes, came up to me at the gathering and said, as if he had been waiting a long time to tell me, that he knew everything. I had never seen him before.’

This is the brilliant memoir of a man who starts out in Manhattan and comes of age in the skies over Korea, before emerging as one of America’s finest authors in the New York of the 1960s.

Burning the Days showcases Salter’s uniquely beautiful style with some of the most evocative pages about flying ever written, together with portraits of the actors, directors and authors who later influenced him. It is an unforgettable book about passion, ambition and what it means to live and to write.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Unabridged edition (2 Mar 2007)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 033044882X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330448826
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 140,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

As more and more reminiscences spill down the literary chute, it's clear that this trend is as strong as ever. The harvest has been a mixed one, of course. For every Frank McCourt or Mary Karr or Tobias Wolff, there seem to be a dozen score- settling memoirists, many of them less interested in understanding the past than sinking a hatchet into it. Now, however, another major contribution to the genre has appeared: James Salter's Burning the Days. This splendid autobiography had its inception in 1986, when the author wrote a trial-balloon recollection for Esquire, so he can hardly be accused of faddishness. But his book differs in another way from the current crop of memoirs, which often feature a forbidding gauntlet of familial or societal travails. Salter, contrarily, has led what many would consider a charmed life. Born an upper-middle-class "city child, pale, cared for, unaware", he attended West Point, served in the Korean War as a fighter pilot, and then seemingly ejected into a post-war period of undiluted glamour. To be sure, his early novels, such as The Hunters, failed to make Salter a household name. Still, he ran with literary lions like Irwin Shaw, drifted into the film business during the 1950s, and spent the next couple of decades jet-setting between New York, Paris, Rome and Aspen.

Salter puts the reader on notice from the very beginning that this will be a selective sort of recollection: "If you can think of life, for a moment, as a large house with a nursery, living and dining rooms, bedrooms, study, and so forth, all unfamiliar and bright, the chapters which follow are, in a way, like looking through the windows of this house.... At some windows you may wish to stay longer, but alas. As with any house, all within cannot be seen." What, then, are we privileged to see? Salter's airborne years account for perhaps a third of the book, and for this we should be grateful: no contemporary writer has made the experience more vivid or eerily palpable. There are brilliant evocations of New York, Rome and Paris, some of which rival the virtuosic scene-painting in the author's A Sport and a Pastime. More to the point, there are human beings, who tend to get semi-apotheosized by the sheer elegance of Salter's prose. ("I do not worship gods but I like to know they are there," he notes in his preface--although his portrait of, say, Irwin Shaw does seem to be propped up on a private altar.)

Salter's lofty romanticism can sometimes turn to gush. These blemishes are far outweighed, however, by the general splendour of the prose, which alternates Proustian extravagance with Hemingway-inspired economy. And even when the book flirts with frivolity, there is always the undertow of loss, of leave-taking. Many of the things that Salter describes are gone. In addition, he claims to have despoiled whatever remains by the very act of writing about it: "To write of someone thoroughly is to destroy them, use them up.... Things are captured and at the same time drained of life, never to shimmer or give back light again." No doubt his assertion has a grain of truth to it, at least for the author himself. But his loss is the reader's gain: most of what Salter has captured in Burning the Days remains alive and, frequently, luminous. --James Marcus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


‘It is years since I read a sharper, more arresting autobiography’ Spectator

‘A stylish and moving account of his various incarnations as a fighter pilot, rock climber, screenwriter and novelist . . . written in the heroic language of an American memoir’ New Statesman

‘He has written three books that everyone should read before they die: A Sport and a Pastime, Light Years and his recollections, Burning the DaysIndependent

‘A masterwork of memory, deeply impressive and deeply moving’ Time Out

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique style 2 Dec 2010
By The Emperor TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This is beautifully written. He really is a great stylist. At times it is almost like poetry.

He has led a fascinating life as well. A fighter ace and a greatly respected author. There is a melancholy feel to this autobiography but it is never depressing.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling... 10 May 2007
By pencil
I can think of no memoir quite like this: dazzling, perfect prose; a fascinating life recounted; emotionally honest. Questions asked about love, and longing, and loss; about life's purpose. Simply stunning.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SALTER AN AMERICAN UNKNOWN IN EUROPE 16 July 2010
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5.0 out of 5 stars The man is a genius 2 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was introduced to the works of James Salter by my son. I am embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of him. He has written some of the most beautiful sentences that I have ever read. I am usually a very fast reader, but I read this exquisitely slowly, because I did not want to rush through it, and there were so many sentences that simply had to be reread to admire their beauty.
I don't like poetry, but some of his prose is the best poetry I have ever read.
This is not an autobiography, but rather a memoir of some of the astonishing people that James Salter has known in an extraordinary life. If you don't know his work, I cannot recommend it highly enough. I shall reread and reread, until I cannot read any more.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A life enjoyed 11 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A couple of reviewers have referred to "plot" but this is an autobiography and not a novel. James Salter has a consummate talent for drawing the reader into breathless admiration of his skill as quite simply a poet of the human condition. One of the most idiosyncratic, but beguiling autobiographies I've read and recommend highly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars part of his autobiography 10 Aug 2013
By maggy
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
probably the most beautifully written book i have come across. not being the least interested in army training, or the air force, I found his descriptions utterly beautiful, and couldn't put it down.
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