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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sexuality and Sadness
"A Sport and a Pastime" (1968) is the third novel of the American writer James Salter (b. 1925). Before becoming a writer, Salter lived an energetic life as a West Point graduate and a fighter pilot. I read this book because I loved Salter's novel "Light Years", which was his next novel after this one. Salter remains unknown to many readers. The two books I have read show...
Published on 23 Jun 2009 by Robin Friedman

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3.0 out of 5 stars What a read... 30 years ago.
Cranky and disappointing but of historical interest.

One can imagine Playboy serializing this in the 70s.

Or did they? Light fun.
Published 5 months ago by northshore mike


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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sexuality and Sadness, 23 Jun 2009
By 
Robin Friedman (Washington, D.C. United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Sport and a Pastime (Paperback)
"A Sport and a Pastime" (1968) is the third novel of the American writer James Salter (b. 1925). Before becoming a writer, Salter lived an energetic life as a West Point graduate and a fighter pilot. I read this book because I loved Salter's novel "Light Years", which was his next novel after this one. Salter remains unknown to many readers. The two books I have read show Salter as the master of a lyrical, precise, and highly distinctive writing style. Salter writes of eroticism and passion tinged with sadness and with the inevitability of loss.

The book is set in France in the late 1950s and features three primary characters, two American men and a young French woman. The story is told by a nameless narrator, an American man of 34, college-educated, who is visiting old companions from school in the United States. The narrator tells something of his own story combined with the story of a young man whom he befriends during his stay, Phillip Dean. Dean, age 24, is highly intelligent but footloose. He has been touring Spain and then visits France after twice dropping out, he claims due to boredom, from Yale. Dean is the son of a wealthy American family. His father and sister are also staying in Paris. While in a bistro in Autumn, France, Dean and the narrator meet an 18-year old French shopgirl, Anne-Marie. Dean and Anne-Marie quickly begin a highly-charged and erotic love affair. The description of the affair, through the eyes of the narrator, takes up most of the book.

The narrator admits his unreliability. At the simplest level, the erotic affair between Dean and Anne-Marie, while described in the most intimate detail, mostly takes place out of sight of the narrator. The accuracy of the account is questionable. More importantly, the narrator is unlike Dean in many ways. In early middle age, the narrator, although highly literate and perceptive, has difficulty approaching women sexually. In the initial scenes of the book, the narrator is attracted to at least two young women travelling with him on the train, makes eye contact, but will not approach them. As the book progresses, he becomes highly enamored with another young woman but does not approach her. She becomes engaged. The narrator has a life of sexual frustration.

The narrator sees his friend Dean as heroic, with a self-confident swagger. Dean is a man who knows what he wants and how to get it with women. Dean also leds a life of bravado, as he recklessly drives an expensive French sports car, borrowed from a friend, and spends money, which he increasingly cadges from family and friends, with little restraint. With its recklessness and improvidence, there are many intimations in the book that Phillip Dean's life will be short. The narrator's portrayal of his friend may in part be a projection of the narrator's own felt inadequacies and his own dreams. The matter is left ambiguous. My own feeling is that his story is mostly true. But whether it is a projection or a factual account is largely irrelevant. The book, in the story of Annie-Marie and Phillip Dean, captures the force of erotic love, of passion, and of heartbreak.

The novel's language and style are highly-charged. They show a writer with a sense of mastery of what he wants to do. The novel has an explicitness in its sexual content that was unusual in a work of literature of the time and that still retains its force. Salter contrasts the fire of his Dean and Anne-Marie, with the lives of frustration and boredom of the narrator and of the book's secondary characters. Salter has an extraordinary sense of France, especially of small towns, cafes, hotels, shops, and ordinary people outside the range of tourists. He is an almost painterly writer who is taken with the surfaces of things, with sex and with fast cars, that some might find superficial. Yet there is a sense of mystery in this book, of passion, and of loss.

Among other books, "A Sport and a Pastime" reminded me of Kerouac's "On the Road." Kerouac and Salter were in fact schoolmates for a short time. Salter's writing is far more elegant and disciplined than is Kerouac's. But Phillip Dean, with his rootlessness and recklessness, love of cars, and energetic sexuality shows parallells to Kerouac's Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady in "On the Road". So to, the narrator in Salter's novel, with his ambivalences and almost hero-worship of Dean, resembles in many ways Sal Paradise/Kerouac, the narrator of Kerouac's famous novel. Kerouac's book has achieved greater public recognition, and I would not want to judge as between the two novels. But Salter's book is far more concentrated and has a much more mannered and elaborate literary style.

It is a great pleasure to discover a writer one has not known before. Salter's "A Sport and a Pastime" and "Light Years" have brought me poetry and thought. Readers willing to explore a unique American writer will enjoy these books.

Robin Friedman
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Novel, 23 Dec 2003
'A Sport and a Pastime' is the sad, tender story of the evolving relationship between a French girl and a young American visiting France. The tale is told in intimate, erotic detail by the American's friend (who is also living in France), and so the story takes on an unconventional quality, related to the reader at an extra remove. The reflective, restrained narrative voice drifts through the story of the affair, giving it a distinctive and compelling flavour; and although at times disconcerting, this thoughtful, voyeuristic perspective captures a strain of emotional intensity and complexity that would have been missed if the reader was not on the outside, covertly looking in.
Behind this relationship there is always a lingering sense of disaster approaching. Rarely is the narrator explicit about what is to come, but in a novel so concerned with life, experience, and the passing of time it is inevitable that the reader will encounter the flip-side. Salter concentrates on the shapes and the things, the words and gestures, while always making the reader conscious that something is being built to: the negative space, the silences and absences, surrounding the corporeality of the novel. This tension (a tension embodied in the choice of the title, a reference to a passage of the Koran), made real in the beautiful, resonant writing, is what makes 'A Sport and a Pastime' an essential read.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Narration of dreams; sex without titillation, 13 Jan 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: A Sport and a Pastime (Paperback)
This book is odd in several respects. It is narrated through the imagined or dreamed episodes of the narrator. The plot concerns an affair between a young Aerican and a French girl of 18. Although there is sex on almost every page, and there can hardly be any more ways of describing it, the scenes are narrated flatly and are set in dingy, rainy, grungy parts of France. The affair has nowhere to go, the participants being dependent on one another for their happiness. Without sex they have nothing to say to each other. More interesting is the device of the third person narration. We are given a description of the narrator, but he, too is flat and unemotional. One might conclude that he has dreamed the whole story up. Salter's writing is vivid and smooth, but his story is a one-note symphony. It's hard to empathize with any of the characters, which leaves the main thrust of the book in the bedroom. But it's better than average.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The radio is playing 'sucu sucu'. The world has stopped., 17 Aug 2010
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Sport and a Pastime (Paperback)
If you have never heard of this writer before, be assured, he is something very special. I can't imagine how he has escaped my radar up until now.The story is told through a bystander figure, never named, and is the story of a moneyed young man, Philip Dean, who falls for a shop assistant in a small French town, where he has arrived to spend a few days with an acquaintance (the bystander). The story of their liaison is gently erotic and beautifully described. The writing is superb:
"A hot afternoon. It is not yet dark. In the cool of her room
they lie like fish in the shadows of a bank. Dean unfolds the
map. The shutters are drawn."

Much of what happens takes place in the imagination of the bystander figure, but he tells the story so convincingly, so loving with detail, and with such wit and passion that one forgets him and the story of the affair takes over completely. They are different classes at a time when such a thing mattered even more than it still does, but Dean is in love with Anne-Marie and he cashes in his return ticket to New York so that he can stay with her over the winter, and on into the following Spring and Summer. They travel all over France in his borrowed car. But though the story of the affair is told at one remove by a non-participant, he is completely engaged by it. Here is part of the passage which explains this engagement brilliantly:
"I cannot divulge my sources. I can merely say that some things
I saw myself, some I discovered, for after all, the mutilation,
the delay of as little as a single word can reveal the existence
of something worthy to be hidden, and I became obsessed with
discovery, like the great detectives. I read every scrap of paper.
I noted every detail."
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4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric and interesting, 8 Jan 2014
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This review is from: A Sport and a Pastime (Paperback)
A Sport and a Pastime is written in an impressionistic style whereby the author conveys the physical and emotional atmosphere through bits and pieces of images and experiences. What is particularly interesting about the novel is that the central "action" of the story is the love affair between a young American man and young French woman, while actually the story is more about the narrator, who is essentially on the sidelines and embellishes, colours and imagines the facts based on his own personality, perceptions and fantasies. It is a fairly short novel and I found it entertaining and easy to read, although the writing style can be confusing at times, as the author uses short sentences and fragments and jumps around in time and place and from character to character. In addition, I agree with some other reviewers that the story feels a bit dated. Overall, A Sport and a Pastime is a quality piece of literature that is worth reading.
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3.0 out of 5 stars What a read... 30 years ago., 7 Nov 2013
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Cranky and disappointing but of historical interest.

One can imagine Playboy serializing this in the 70s.

Or did they? Light fun.
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4.0 out of 5 stars True to its title., 6 Nov 2013
By 
El Massri "elmas" (Alexandria , Egypt) - See all my reviews
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I only found out after having finished the novel that it was written by the same author who wrote The Hunters . Came to me as a surprise although the subjects and locations are so different ... but on consideration , I found some similarities.
The characters are very well fleshed out in a novel that is at times surrealistic ... I liked the imagery , and the eroticism . The novel starts in semi reality and ends firmly grounded in our everyday reality .
Not gone into much of the story so as not to spoil it for others .. but it is recommended for those who enjoy good writing , and would like a glimpse of rural France in the not too distant past .
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2.0 out of 5 stars An over rated period piece, 31 Oct 2013
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Mr. Andrew J. Coote "AJaCques" (Bath, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Sport and a Pastime (Paperback)
I chose this book after being recommended it as a "must read." I find it easier to read a dictionary. If you are interested in France you are better off reading a guide book, and if you like eroticism there are much better Books.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sticks to your brain, 31 Oct 2013
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This review is from: A Sport and a Pastime (Paperback)
Funny, the way you have to read Salter in a slow motion. Afraid of losing the diamonds through the gutter. Just opened Light Years. You can feel Salter in the very first passage. X,Y,Z and a fourth dimension too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is how a novel should be written, 17 Oct 2013
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This review is from: A Sport and a Pastime (Paperback)
I read an article by another writer who said he was influenced by this novel to become a writer - and it's a good story
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A Sport and a Pastime
A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter (Paperback - 2 Mar 2007)
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