A Sport And A Pastime by James Salter

James Salter has managed to create another interesting read that describes France beautifully and creates enough for any bookclub to debate. A little raunchy to say the least in places for a 1960's book too!

If your Book Club enjoys lively debate then this could be a book for you, for there is more to this unusual clever story than meets the eye.

The Plot

The plot is simple! The writer treats us to a beautiful graphic picture of France, including its magnificent capital city, Paris. He reminds us of its long history, mentioning Roman times & uses words just like a painter uses a brush, to paint a picture of France through the eyes of his American Narrator. 

 Running parallel to this is an equally graphic account of the intense  physical relationship of his American friend, Philip Dean & his French girlfriend, Anne Marie, an account which leaves nothing to the imagination. 

The Characters of James Salter A Sport And A Pastime

James Salter A Sport And A Pastime

There are only three characters worthy of note; The Narrator, Philip Dean & Anne Marie. The Narrator is hard to define  yet he is the most important character for he tells us about France & the couple yet leaves the reader to interpret what he narrates individually. 

Dean & Anne Marie don't develop as characters. They have an intense physical, sexual relationship as early relationships often are. She would probably like it to develop but he comments about her bad breath  & "Sometimes he is depressed by her imperfections." Hardly the thoughts of someone deeply in love! Their relationship has no substance; it is purely physical. The language used illustrates this; their union is NOT romantic. Whereas, in contrast,
the love of France IS romantic.


James Salter A Sport And A Pastime

The vivid description of France in the 60's in short, sharp, sometimes rhythmic sentences plus groups of emotive words, with frequent references to time & long ago & the relationship of the young couple on the brink of adulthood, bringing out  so many senses, gives the book feelings of sensuality & nostalgia. 

The explicit sex scenes illustrate only too well how communication needn't always be about the spoken word. However lack of verbal communication does lead to Anne Marie perhaps seeing herself as an American housewife when we know Philip doesn't see his future with her at all.

Love & Eroticism
The story looks at the nature of relationships involving eroticism, (though many readers won't have found the explicit sex erotic at all) as opposed to pure love involving the heart.

The Narrator tells us, "I'm not telling the truth about Dean. I am inventing him. I am creating him out of my own inadequacies . You must always remember that." Are we meant to believe that the narrator is dreaming & that the youngsters don't exist? 

The Past & the present, as represented by the description of France  & the fleeting relationship of Dean & Anne Marie. 

Bookclub Questions

James Salter A Sport And A Pastime

1. The book was described by The New York Times as " A Tour de Force in erotic realism , a romantic cliffhanger, an opaline vision of American's in France." Do you agree with this quote? 

2. What is the significance of the title?

3. What do you feel about the unusual style of writing? 

4. From your knowledge, does the writer give a realistic portrayal of France? 

5. How do you react to the Narrator? 

6. Do you find the sexual relationship erotic? 


James Salter A Sport And A Pastime

Our Book Club had quite a few interesting debates about this book. Some loved the french description and others found the characters really annoying and frustrating! 

Overall it scored 6/10.

There is depth to this novel which is worth exploring. It isn't just about a description of France in the 60's or being a voyeur of the sexual exploits of a young couple. There's more to it which can only lead to a successful meeting of stimulating discussion.

Top of James Salter A Sport And A Pastime

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