I didn’t know writing could be both spare and self-indulgent. Solo Faces showed me how. James Salter’s story of a climber’s quest for the sublime is beautifully written in mostly short, evocative prose, almost poetic in the way he constructs scenes and uses images. Yet, somehow the story drags on, even as it follows a man driven to climb alone on the ice and snow of the Alps. It is just one of several attempts to feel, to live his life more fully, to deal with his profound ennui.
I don’t have much time for the ennui of a person I’ll never know. Perhaps this was Salter’s sentimental farewell to a life he once lived pushing his own limits. If so, it is a beautiful and empty exercise for me.