Last Night (Vintage International) (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Here are ten gem-like, spellbinding stories told in elegant, spare prose. Once you start reading you won' be able to put this collection down. The pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle: intimate, passionate stories of men and women together and apart. And the title story, the last, is a masterpiece!

James Salter was a runner-up for the 2006 Pen-Faulkner Award.


— From John


Last Night is a spellbinding collection of stories about passion–by turns fiery and subdued, destructive and redemptive, alluring and devastating. These ten powerful stories portray men and women in their most intimate moments. A lover of poetry is asked by his wife to give up what may be his most treasured relationship. A book dealer is forced to face the truth about his life. And in the title story, a translator assists his wife’s suicide, even as he performs a last act of betrayal. James Salter’s assured style and emotional insight make him one of our most essential writers

About the Author

James Salter is the author of the novels Solo Faces, Light Years, A Sport and a Pastime, The Arm of Flesh (revised as Cassada), and The Hunters; the memoirs Gods of Tin and Burning the Days; and the collection Dusk and Other Stories, which won the 1989 PEN/Faulkner Award. He lives in Colorado and on Long Island.Julia Blackburn is the author of several other works of nonfiction, including Charles Waterton and The Emperor’s Last Island, and of two novels, The Book of Color and The Leper’s Companions, both of which were short-listed for the Orange Prize. Her most recent book, Old Man Goya, was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Blackburn lives in England and Italy.

Praise For…

“Terrific fiction, written by an important writer. . . . All of these stories share Salter’s exquisite prose, his talent for flitting gracefully between points of view, his uncanny ability to sum up a character in a single detail. . . . These stories should be read and savored.”
The Washington Post Book World

“For numerous reasons, all of which are dazzlingly illustrated in the new story collection Last Night, Salter seems to be the contemporary fiction writer whom other practitioners of the art hold in highest esteem.” –The Oregonian

“Life is a volatile mess, and no one portrays that mess better than James Salter. . . . All of the stories in Last Night are superb.”
The New York Times Book Review

“A glowing gem in Salter’s remarkable body of work. Last Night should be X-rated, not for its eroticism, although there is that, but to forewarn the uninitiated of its scalding truths about the deceptions and devastations of love . . . Beyond the purity of language and the skill, each story has at its heart an underlying sensibility that treasures each moment of beauty, each burning day . . . Astonishing, haunting, heartbreaking.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Sophisticated, refreshing. Evoke[s] John Cheever [in] the flawless cadence of the narrative, the elegance of the style and the way the stories are filled with emotions without ever becoming sentimental . . . Wonderful.”
–Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Exquisite, pitch-perfect, timeless . . . You can practically smell the cigarette smoke and hear the booze-scratched timbre of Salter’s characters’ voices . . . In this era of chatter and distraction, Salter’s carefully honed stories offer a welcome precision.” 
San Francisco Chronicle
“The maestro constantly stirs you as you read . . . The sentences alone create a certain breathlessness. Paradise, in Salter’s fiction, has always already been lost. Yet the memory of a greener time persists, if only in his prose. While reading it, how happy one is.”
Chicago Tribune

“Terrific fiction, written by an important writer . . . All of these stories share Salter’s exquisite prose, his talent for flitting gracefully between points of view, his uncanny ability to sum up a character in a single detail . . . Salter’s people are smart, witty, libidinous and romantic, likely to experience their most important personal epiphanies at dinner parties or in fashionable restaurants. And almost all of the stories revolve around relationships in one way or another: faltering marriages, missed opportunities and betrayals, past loves resurfacing in unexpected ways. More than that, each of these stories has a secret hidden beneath a seemingly innocuous veneer, a moment at which Salter reveals that everything is not as it seems, [a moment in which] the story pivots on its axis and becomes something altogether richer and more complex . . . In an ideal world, his books would leap from shelf to cash register . . . These stories should be read and savored.”
Washington Post Book World

“The ragged tumult of intimacy has long been the province of James Salter, writer of the exquisitely appropriate sentence; the excruciatingly penetrating short story; the impressionistic, incandescent novel. In A Sport and a Pastime, Light Years (arguably one of the best novels ever) and Solo Faces, he has taken the art of fiction into a realm all his own; in Burning the Days and Gods of Tin, he has made nonfiction high art. In his latest, Last Night, neither his style nor his content flags. He writes with intensity and serious intent, illuminating those places we try to hide, never letting us off the hook . . . Salter is a master at capturing that moment when matters go completely and unexpectedly awry. He then mines that moment for all its beauty, horror, poignancy, love, lust, loss, grief and confusion, and renders it in unforgettable prose.”
Seattle Times

“Salter’s prose inspires revelations.”
The New York Post

“If you put John Updike’s short fiction on the Atkins diet for a month, you might end up with something like James Salter’s lean and powerful new collection, Last Night. These stories unfold in the dark flower of relationships one petal at a time. As in Updike’s world, Salter’s men hold their cards close and keep their women at bay. Old girlfriends, current paramours and the dreams caught up with sexual freedom haunt the husbands of this book. These stories speak to human frailty without fear, and they hint at the way regret lingers around the faithful like fog to a streetlamp.”
Philadelphia Weekly

“One of the best, most adult collections to appear in a long while . . . The feelings of Mr. Salter’s characters are lean and instantaneous. They deliver minimalist dialog that is more Hollywood than noir . . . Tragedy, then, is not the slow burn of the unfortunate but the sudden tumble of the rich. In several stories, it is a quick, indelible dinner conversation. Even Mr. Salter’s prose works by this puncture aesthetic . . . Perhaps this is why so many writers admire Mr. Salter: because he seems to do what he does in a single sentence. But it takes an entire story to smooth out the tablecloth; only then can he stain it.”
New York Sun

“In his new collection, James Salter displays the kind of precise mastery of language that has led him to be described as a ‘writer’s writer.’ However, these explorations of love, dreams, disappointment and betrayal show that his insight into universal themes is more than a match for his literary prowess: This stunning collection confirms that he is also undoubtedly a reader’s writer. Salter captures the essence of a moment or character using only its sparest elements. Like light striking water at just the right angle, his language makes these stories shimmer with life . . . He limns the subtle layers of relationships that Hollywood tends to forget; the moments that reach deeper into the heart than histrionic epiphanies and sunset endings because they acknowledge the shadowy illogic of human emotions . . . Salter’s characters suffer the unglamorous defeats and disappointments of love. [He] avoids the black-and-white morality of wrong vs. wronged. Instead, he leads us through the inexplicable geography of emotions that lie in between. He navigates the territory with exceptional insight and skill: Bitter or silent, awkward or serene–or as clear and bright as morning light–Salter writes it just the way it is.”
Rocky Mountain News

“Splendid . . . Perfectly constructed and marvelously accurate prose portraits . . . Salter gives up the vital facts about his characters slowly, almost on a need-to-know basis. The job of telling what his people are really like is accomplished by peeling off layer after layer of their public face. It is not until the end of the story that we see the full man or woman and often the portrait is much different than what we anticipated . . . [The title story is] a masterpiece . . . Salter’s touch is always sure and his words precise. [Each story] rewards us many times over.”
Newark Star-Ledger

“One hesitates to use the term writer’s writer . . . But James Salter is a writer’s writer, and his latest story collection shows why. Spare, deceptively simple prose like this is hard to come by, and if you read it with a sharp mind, you’ll pick up the unexpected curveballs that leave many of Salter’s colleagues and acolytes swooning . . . Salter captures his characters in a few short scenes, but each story packs in a lifetime of real feeling. Quiet and genteel though they may be, these people are capable of wicked betrayal, and they aren’t jaded to its consequences . . . [Here] we can feel the seductive power of words.”
Time Out New York

“Stories of memory, love, war and the passage of time, how we change and how we don’t change, whether there is any connection between our young selves and our older selves . . . You don’t just meet his characters as they’re living now, but you learn how they looked and lived before . . . The stories are compact, intimate, some born from a single sentence . . . A collection preoccupied with time and legacy.”
Associated Press

“James Salter is one of a handful of writers whose name is uniformly uttered in reverence by fellow writers . . . Last Night is clearly the work of a writer with the perspective of years, the long view. The stories often focus upon those pivotal moments that, in retrospect, shape a life–missed chances, wrong paths taken, that one opportunity that a character did or didn’t take . . . Mysterious and evocative, and utterly beautiful in its language . . . Salter can toss off sentences [that] stop you cold in their lyric precision seemingly at will, two or three on every page . . . What also comes through Salter’s fiction is wisdom, earned from a well-lived life.”
Hartford Courant

“We sometimes come late to treasure we should have found long ago. For me, it is the writing of James Salter . . . Last Night has all of the trademark precision and melody he is known for . . . Elegant . . . In the Salter story, the table will be set, there will be wide doors with curved brass handles, deep armchairs, and Vuillard prints on the walls. The bed linens will be turned back and someone will be in tears . . . Salter is such a paradox to read. On the one hand, you have these pages of pliant and mellifluous prose, as fine and as sumptuous as a seven-course French dinner, hinting at life as comely as those meals. And then you have his characters in all their splendid shambles.”
The Buffalo News

“Perhaps this collection of Salter’s artful yet definitely embraceable short stories will shake him free of his reputation as a writer’s writer. There is nothing wrong, of course, with being someone other writers like to read, but in Salter’s case a writer’s writer is also someone anyone who appreciates good writing would enjoy. There are 10 stories here, and not one fails to showcase his superior talent in the form: his prose style, which is subtle but not abstruse, and his stories’ points, which are also subtle, but never vague. He deals in the broad subject of relationships, but . . . finds corners of peculiarity to illuminate. The story ‘Comet’ [is a] masterpiece. The title story is a tour de force about assisted suicide gone wrong–for several reasons. . . Salter’s genius is most apparent in the effectiveness of his short and direct dialogue, which he uses not only to reflect real people talking but also to distill character to sheer essence.”
Booklist (starred)

“Matchless narrative economy and surgically precise prose are the identifying marks of this exemplary gathering of ten stories by veteran author Salter . . . Sex, betrayal, aging and death are dominant themes . . . Salter’s great gift is his ability to trace the arc of an entire life, or several shared or separated lives, with a masterly fusion of crisp dialogue and penetrating summary statement . . . D.H. Lawrence might have devised the haunting symbolism that pervades [the story] ‘My Lord You’ . . . ‘Platinum’ reads like a combination of Edith Wharton and John O’Hara . . . All Salter’s themes merge memorably in the concluding (title) story, a compact symphony of mutual devotion, human frailty and lingering regret. One of the masters displays his wares, to stunning effect.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“Compelling . . . Teetering marriages, collapsing relationships and other calamities of the heart drive these 10 compact, unsettling stories by respected writer Salter. The title story is especially impressive–when Walter Such and his seriously ill wife, Marit, agree that he will assist in her suicide, Marit insists that Susanna, a mutual friend, come over to keep them company in her final moments. Nothing goes as planned, however, and Walter’s double betrayal of his wife ushers in the haunting conclusion . . . Stirring stories [that are] worthy additions to a formidable body of work.”
Publishers Weekly

“As nearly perfect as any American fiction I know.”
–Reynolds Price

“Salter is a writer who particularly rewards those for whom reading is an intense pleasure. He is among the very few North American writers all of whose work I want to read, whose as-yet-unpublished books I wait for impatiently.”
Susan Sontag
Product Details
ISBN: 9781400078417
ISBN-10: 1400078415
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: March 14th, 2006
Pages: 144
Language: English
Series: Vintage International