Wednesday, April 24, 2013

James Salter vs. Ken Kalfus

A week ago, the Complete and Total Loser went to a book reading that featured two authors. 
The Loser went to hear James Salter, who's prose the Loser loves and he knows he's not qualified to try to tell you why.
James Salter

Salter is 87 years old and has a history of not publishing much. The book he read from, All That Is, was just published after a 30-year gap. Salter set the reading up and read from the novel's early pages for about half an hour. What he read was interesting and good enough to make the Loser happy that he'd bought it. (He can't remember when he paid full price for a hardback edition of a current novel.)

The second author was Ken Kalfus. 
Kalfus is four years older than the Loser. His book is called Equilateral. He launched into his reading, and he read badly. Too fast. No set up. The Loser had no idea what was going on and he guessed that anyone who hadn't read a synopsis of the novel prior to the reading felt the same way. Kalfus read about the building of a huge triangle in a desert for some reason. You had no idea when it took place or whether or not it was real, and the technical aspects were hard to keep up with.
Ken Kalfus

The Loser admires Kalfus immensely. Anyone who has enough confidence to write for a living deserves our admiration, especially if they're writing long fiction and they know it's not going to be one of those trick books that sells crazy amounts for years, like Tuesdays With Morie. 
Nonetheless, the Loser has a mean streak and after the reading, when the two authors sat at desks signing their books, he was glad to see that the line in front of Salter was markedly longer.

By the way, if you're ever curious about Salter's writing, read The Hunters, his first novel. It's about fighter pilots in Korea, where Salter flew during that conflict.

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