Thursday, November 12, 2015

Calling Alfred As Hope Dries Out: Salt of the Earth

Don't ignore your dreams; don't work too much; say what you think; cultivate friendships; be happy.

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A palliative care nurse called Bronnie Ware made a list of the biggest regrets of the dying. Her list seems plausible. I could see myself—can see myself—making at least 4 of these 5 mistakes. ~ To do list

Toxic texts. Paternalistic censors have long labeled literature dangerous. But with trigger warnings, young people infantilize themselves... Danger in words»

James Salter, the novelist whose careful prose style made him a favorite among fellow authors, died on Friday in Sag Harbor, N.Y., at 90.
Mr. Salter is still best known for his short 1967 novel “A Sport and a Pastime,” about an intense love affair in provincial France. In The Times in 1985, Reynolds Price wrote, “In its peculiar compound of lucid surface and dark interior, it’s as nearly perfect as any American fiction I know.” In 2013, in an interview in The Financial Times, the novelist Jonathan Dee called it “a great literary novel but also the most erotic book ever written.”
The Times critic Anatole Broyard described the prose in “A Sport and Pastime” as “brilliant,” and added: “It is almost unbelievable what he can do with a few pigeons — just pigeons — rising or settling to the ground. He writes short sentences that are like caresses.” This praise, though, appeared in a 1975 review of “Light Years,” which Broyard said marked a “degeneration” of Mr. Salter’s style, including what he judged an over-reliance on the word “light”: “The author glues the novel together with it, using it as a structural constant or point of reference in the aimless movement of the characters.”
In an interview published in The Paris Review in 1993, Mr. Salter said: “I’m a frotteur, someone who likes to rub words in his hand, to turn them around and feel them, to wonder if that really is the best word possible. Does that word in this sentence have any electric potential? Does it do anything? Too much electricity will make your reader’s hair frizzy. There’s a question of pacing.”
By 1997, reviewing Mr. Salter’s memoir “Burning the Days,” Richard Bernstein could write that it had “become almost a banality among the literati to describe Mr. Salter as the most underrated of American writers.” As recently as 2013, in his long profile of Mr. Salter for The New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten wrote, “Most people seem not to know about him, and many who do find his work precious, arty, mandarin.”
But Mr. Salter’s visibility increased over the past decade as a new generation of readers championed his novels, and in 2013 he published “All That Is,” his first novel in nearly 35 years. In The New York Times Book Review, Malcolm Jones called it a book “that manages to be both recognizable (no one but Salter could have written it) and yet strikingly original, vigorous proof that this literary lion is still very much on the prowl.”
During an event at the 92nd Street Y in 2013, Richard Ford asked Mr. Salter, who had just received two sustained ovations from the large crowd, “So I guess the whole ‘writer’s writer’ thing is over now?”
“I hope so,” Mr. Salter replied.
Reviews of Mr. Salter’s work in The Times:
“Light Years” (Books of The Times)
“Light Years” (Book Review)
“Solo Faces” (Books of The Times)
“Dusk and Other Stories” (Book Review)
“Burning the Days” (Books of The Times)
“Last Night” (Book Review)
“All That Is” (Book Review)
Coverage elsewhere:
“The Glory of Certain Moments in Life” (The New York Review of Books)
“The Last Book” (The New Yorker)
The Paris Review interview

The Joy of Autumn Colours at Windsor
In The New York Times Book Review, Eric Schlosser reviews “One of Us,” the Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad’s account of the life and crimes of Anders Behring Breivik, a mass murderer who killed 77 people, most of them teenagers. Mr. Schlosser writes:
“One of Us” has the feel of a nonfiction novel. Like Norman Mailer’s “The Executioner’s Song” and Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” it has an omniscient narrator who tells the story of brutal murders and, by implication, sheds light on the society partly responsible for them. Although those two books are beautifully written, I found “One of Us” to be more powerful and compelling. For Capote and Mailer, the murderer loomed as an antihero, a tragic figure defying the conventions and expectations of mainstream America. Capote became infatuated with one of the killers in his book, while Mailer had remarkably little interest in the people whom Gary Gilmore robbed and killed for a few hundred dollars. As Seierstad weaves the stories of Utoya’s campers with her central narrative about Breivik — revealing the mundane details of their family lives, their youthful ambitions, idealism and naïveté — the book attains an almost unbearable weight. This tragedy isn’t literary and symbolic; it’s the real thing.
On this week’s podcast, Mr. Schlosser discusses “One of Us”; Alexandra Alter has news from the literary world; Meghan O’Rourke talks about Elizabeth Alexander’s “The Light of the World”; and Gregory Cowles has best-seller news. Pamela Paul is the host.
The audio clip of coverage of the massacre in Norway on this week’s episode was taken from this video report.
Also on this week’s episode, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gregory Pardlo can be heard reading one of his poems. More of that reading can be found on Mr. Pardlo’s website.

Whistling Pom on the Bike
Tim Coleman of Freshfields has died of an apparent suicide. Reportedly, he jumped off a building in Washington D.C.
SufferingGreat sadness hovers over the legal community. After all, as poet John Donne observed, no man is an island. In particular, lawyers, as is well known, have a higher rate of suicide than the general population.
Also, there has been the recent report of a surge in deaths among the middle aged. That's not only happening to the uneducated going through economic displacement in a changing economy.
Just go to any version of a 12-step recovery group and you will encounter professionals in mid-career and on the edge.
One insurance executive in compliance just couldn't make it to the other side - hope. He committed suicide. His estranged wife was squeezing him in a divorce. He couldn't stop drinking. But, of course, no one really knows why he actually pulled the trigger, literally.
Science and even "regulars" in support groups seem to know so little why hope runs out. But we can bypass that question. Instead, we can get straight down to business: saving our own lives.
Coleman's tragedy might catapult us out of denial that we could be experiencing extreme darkness in how we see the world and our lives in it. The holiday season, which was kicked off on Halloween, can increase our vulnerability to despair.
The next step is to figure out how to strengthen or restore hope. There is no one way. But, it is possible.Here are 5 recommendations.