Saturday, April 23, 2011

James Salter 2

Thomas McGuane reads James Salter’s short story Last Night, and discusses it with The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman.

From Last Night:

—Walter, she said.


—This is the right thing.

She reached to take his hand. Somehow it frightened him, as if it might mean an appeal to come with her.

—You know, she said evenly, I’ve loved you as much as I’ve ever loved anyone in the world—I’m sounding maudlin, I know.

—Ah, Marit! he cried.

—Did you love me?

His stomach was churning in despair.

—Yes, he said. Yes!

—Take care of yourself.


He was in good health, as it happened, a little heavier than he might have been, but nevertheless . . . His roundish, scholarly stomach was covered with a layer of soft, dark hair, his hands and nails well cared for.

She leaned forward and embraced him. She kissed him. For a moment, she was not afraid. She would live again, be young again as she once had been. She held out her arm. On the inside, two veins the color of verdigris were visible. He began to press to make them rise. Her head was turned away.

—Do you remember, she said to him, when I was working at Bates and we met that first time? I knew right away.

The needle was wavering as he tried to position it.

—I was lucky, she said. I was very lucky.

He was barely breathing. He waited, but she did not say anything more. Hardly believing what he was doing, he pushed the needle in—it was effortless—and slowly injected the contents. He heard her sigh. Her eyes were closed as she lay back. Her face was peaceful. She had embarked. My God, he thought, my God. He had known her when she was in her twenties, long-legged and innocent. Now he had slipped her, as in a burial at sea, beneath the flow of time. Her hand was still warm. He took it and held it to his lips. He pulled the bedspread up to cover her legs. The house was incredibly quiet. It had fallen into silence, the silence of a fatal act. He could not hear the wind. ...

Interview at the Harry Ransom Center (UT Austin), which houses the Salter archive.

Reynolds Price discusses Light Years at Duke.

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