Last Night is a slim volume of ten stories by James Salter. James is his real name. Salter is a pseudonym adopted because he was in the air force when he began to write. He was a fighter pilot who flew with Buzz Aldrin, Ed White and Gus Grissom. In July of 2004, just before this collection was published, I heard him read from one of these stories, “Such Fun.” He was 79 at the time. Someone in the audience asked him about what he liked to read. His answer: “I don’t read for pleasure anymore. I read because I want to see how they did it.” He said he writes longhand first and then types.
From his story, “My Lord You,” here’s an example of Salter’s ability to say so much with so few words (the wife was in the bathroom getting ready for bed):
“–Tired? her husband asked as she emerged. It was his way of introducing the subject. –No, she said.”
In “Platinum,” look for another example of his ability to say it without saying it….
Again in “My Lord You,” an example of Salter’s ability to create a world with a few details:
“The hallway was dim. Beyond it was a living room in disorder, couch cushions rumpled, glasses on the tables, papers, shoes. In the dining room there were piles of books. It was the house of an artist, abundance, disregard.”
Also, in “Bangkok,”: “The rooms had high ceilings, the bookcases were filled and against them, on the floor, a few framed photographs leaned.”
In “Such Fun,” an example of his wit:
“There was not much more to her than met the eye, but that had always been enough.”
In “Give,” Salter does what he is so good at–writes about marriage.
My three favorite stories: “Give,” “Bangkok,” and “Last Night.”