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None of these 11 stories is easy, for Salter's work is a prime example of the difficult pleasure of understatement in fiction, particularly in effective short-fiction. He must be read closely if one is to appreciate every nuance, every suggestion, every implication his rigorously controlled sentences deliver. He writes of the awareness of vulnerabilities, of people finally seeing them in themselves, making other people see theirs. His subjects are often Americans residing in Europe, where it seems their vulnerabilities catch on things easier and quicker. Endings are not tidy, and dialogue, while simple, is more symbolic of expression than a tool of realistic depiction. But these are fine, masterful pieces; they make the reader work hard, but they show, as a dividend, a keen sensitivity to the pungent stroke a honed short story can effect. BH.
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The title of Salter's new collection catches its mood so precisely that it comes as a surprise to find that there's no story called ``Dusk'' here. Salter's art is one of pastels, his melancholy so carefully modulated that it might have been handled by a decorator. The most successful story, ``Twenty Minutes,'' is also the most conventional: a rider fatally crushed by her horse in a fall relives her life. Salter's artful concision is marred only by his attendance to such upscale items as Navajo rugs and famous dinners. Other stories reduce to knowing catalogs of names, places (all the right ones), and sensations. Even a piece called ``Dirt'' is squeaky clean. Shouldn't pain be more painful? For large collections of contemporary American fiction.Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id . (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Salter's elegant prose is ideally suited to the short story form. The author of five novels (A Sport and a Pastime, Light Years) here reaches a new height of grace and breathtaking virtuosity. His settings are evoked in perfectly chosen detail and his characters, almost all denizens of the most privileged class, are defined with the same unerring precision. In these 11 short narratives, Salter intentionally paints brilliantly sunny scenes of romance and luxurious comfort, only to reveal through his characters a darkening dusk brought on by doubt, emotional disarray and the vagaries of human imperfection. In ``Foreign Shores'' a pleasant Dutch au pair is slowly discovered to have ``the morals of a housefly'' by her embittered employer, who sees her little boy embrace the departing disgraced girl and comments, ``They always love sluts.'' In ``American Express'' two young hotshot lawyers travel through Europe seeking something that becomes impossible to define, much less find. In ``Fields at Dusk'' an attractive woman in her 40s confronts loneliness and loss: ``She was a woman who lived a certain life. She knew how to give dinner parties, take care of dogs, enter restaurants . . . . She was a woman who had read books, played golf, gone to weddings, whose legs were good, who had weathered storms, a fine woman whom no one now wanted.'' Salter is a fine writer working at the top of his form. (February 22) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved