A Sport and a Pastime

delage James Salter is sort of an amalgamation of Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller and Penthouse Forum. His description of American ex-pats in post-war Europe is very Hemingway. His idolization of vapid, lay-abouts is very Miller. His authoring a book largely about anal sex is very Guccione.

The milquetoast narrator meets fellow American Phillip Dean at a Paris party and inspires Dean to move his underfunded French sightseeing tour from the City of Light to provincial Autun. Having arrived in Autun, Dean hooks-up with a peasant waitress, which sends the narrator into a full-on vicarious description of what their life must be like. Driving to a new small town every day, eating in a hotel or café, walking at about at night and screwing. An annoying amount of screwing. That the book was written in 1967 and goes from standard sex, to oral, to anal, to essentially Ann-Marie just assuming the position, working the lube and reading a magazine is stunning. That year the moral majority were trying to ban S.E. Hilton’s The Outsiders. Talk about preoccupied…they really missed a doozy by Salter.

The book does have some fine writing, but also has some kvetch worthy writing as well. Just like free-association, scattered jazz music makes no sense, Salter peppers the book with non-linear absurdities. Without bothering to look one up, an example might be that the lighting of a room or some cool air makes Dean temporarily terrified. WTF?

Besides inducing a mild erection, a reason to own the book is that it makes a fine travel guide. With Paris currently flooded by those splendid migrants, visits to Nancy, Dijon, Beaune, La Baule, Sens, Les Settons, Montsauche, Dole, Bagnoles, Angers, Perros-Guirec, etc…might still be like visiting France.

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