James Salter: A Sport and a Pastime


The latest addition to my website is James Salter‘s A Sport and a Pastime. The novel is set in France, specifically Paris and Autun, and is narrated by a self-confessed unreliable narrator. He has borrowed the house of Parisian friends in Autun, where he is staying on his own, lusting unsuccessfully after the divorcee Mme Piquet. An old friend, Phillip Dean, arrives in a borrowed car and the pair travel around a bit. Dean meets Anne-Marie, a young, uneducated French woman, six years his junior. The pair start a passionate affair, described pruriently by the narrator, who admits some of the descriptions are part of his fantasies (he clearly relishes Anne-Marie’s body and their sexual activity). However, it is soon apparent to us and then to Anne-Marie and Dean, that the affair is doomed, not least because Dean has no money (he is a brilliant drop-out from Yale) and his father will not subsidise him. Salter tells his tale very well, as we follow his humdrum life, drifting between Paris and Autun, and all the while following the affair of Anne-Marie and Dean.

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