When I put the same question to Salter, he dodges it at first, trying to convince me it's not an important exchange, then admits that, yes, in fact, it is.

Finally he arrives at himself. "Well, I would say that the war was a very big thing. I wasn't in the war [World War II]. Nevertheless, it remains very large. I was a youth when the war started, I became a young man during the war, and then a man—still young but a man—in the aftermath of the war, which I'm calling 1952, five or seven years later. So that period was really the heart of my life.

"Not to say I am still that person or I remain the jaunty guy with a pair of wings that I appear to be in old photographs. But you don't shed that, even though it's altered in one way or another—burnished, changed. Even though in the end there are other things of consequence that outweigh it. In Bridgehampton there are some photos of my old squadron and of an airplane crash I had, but I don't have them around here. That's not the part of my life that has really been the most significant. Writing has meant more to me over the years than all of that."

James Salter
Matt Nager
James Salter
As an Air Force pilot, Salter flew more than 100 missions.
Courtesy openroadmedia.com
As an Air Force pilot, Salter flew more than 100 missions.


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