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All That Is

Cover of All That Is

All That Is

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An extraordinary literary event, a major new novel by the PEN/Faulkner winner and acclaimed master: a sweeping, seductive, deeply moving story set in the years after World War II.
From his experiences as a young naval officer in battles off Okinawa, Philip Bowman returns to America and finds a position as a book editor. It is a time when publishing is still largely a private affair—a scattered family of small houses here and in Europe—a time of gatherings in fabled apartments and conversations that continue long into the night. In this world of dinners, deals, and literary careers, Bowman finds that he fits in perfectly. But despite his success, what eludes him is love. His first marriage goes bad, another fails to happen, and finally he meets a woman who enthralls him—before setting him on a course he could never have imagined for himself.
Romantic and haunting, All That Is explores a life unfolding in a world on the brink of change. It is a dazzling, sometimes devastating labyrinth of love and ambition, a fiercely intimate account of the great shocks and grand pleasures of being alive.

An extraordinary literary event, a major new novel by the PEN/Faulkner winner and acclaimed master: a sweeping, seductive, deeply moving story set in the years after World War II.
From his experiences as a young naval officer in battles off Okinawa, Philip Bowman returns to America and finds a position as a book editor. It is a time when publishing is still largely a private affair—a scattered family of small houses here and in Europe—a time of gatherings in fabled apartments and conversations that continue long into the night. In this world of dinners, deals, and literary careers, Bowman finds that he fits in perfectly. But despite his success, what eludes him is love. His first marriage goes bad, another fails to happen, and finally he meets a woman who enthralls him—before setting him on a course he could never have imagined for himself.
Romantic and haunting, All That Is explores a life unfolding in a world on the brink of change. It is a dazzling, sometimes devastating labyrinth of love and ambition, a fiercely intimate account of the great shocks and grand pleasures of being alive.

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  • Chapter 1

    Break of Day

    All night in darkness the water sped past.

    In tier on tier of iron bunks below deck, silent, six deep, lay hundreds of men, many face-up with their eyes still open though it was near morning. The lights were dimmed, the engines throbbing endlessly, the ventilators pulling in damp air, fifteen hundred men with their packs and weapons heavy enough to take them straight to the bottom, like an anvil dropped in the sea, part of a vast army sailing towards Okinawa, the great island that was just to the south of Japan. In truth, Okinawa was Japan, part of the homeland, strange and unknown. The war that had been going on for three and a half years was in its final act. In half an hour the first groups of men would file in for breakfast, standing as they ate, shoulder to shoulder, solemn, unspeaking. The ship was moving smoothly with faint sound. The steel of the hull creaked.

    The war in the Pacific was not like the rest of it. The distances alone were enormous. There was nothing but days on end of empty sea and strange names of places, a thousand miles between them. It had been a war of many islands, of prying them from the Japanese, one by one. Guadalcanal, which became a legend. The Solomons and the Slot. Tarawa, where the landing craft ran aground on reefs far from shore and the men were slaughtered in enemy fire dense as bees, the horror of the beaches, swollen bodies lolling in the surf, the nation's sons, some of them beautiful.

    In the beginning with frightening speed the Japanese had overrun everything, all of the Dutch East Indies, Malaya, the Philippines. Great strongholds, deep fortifications known to be impregnable, were swept over in a matter of days. There had been only one counter stroke, the first great carrier battle in the middle of the Pacific, near Midway, where four irreplaceable Japanese carriers went down with all their planes and veteran crews. A staggering blow, but still the Japanese were relentless. Their grip on the Pacific would have to be broken finger by iron finger.

    The battles were endless and unpitying, in dense jungle and heat. Near the shore, afterwards, the palms stood naked, like tall stakes, every leaf shot away. The enemy were savage fighters, the strange pagoda-like structures on their warships, their secret hissing language, their stockiness and ferocity. They did not surrender. They fought to the death. They executed prisoners with razor swords, two-handed swords raised high overhead, and they were merciless in victory, arms thrust aloft in mass triumph.

    By 1944, the great, final stages had begun. Their object was to bring the Japanese homeland within range of heavy bombers. Saipan was the key. It was large and heavily defended. The Japanese army had not been defeated in battle, disregarding the outposts--New Guinea, the Gilberts, places such as that--for more than 350 years. There were twenty-five thousand Japanese troops on the island of Saipan commanded to yield nothing, not an inch of ground. In the order of earthly things, the defense of Saipan was deemed a matter of life and death.

    In June, the invasion began. The Japanese had dangerous naval forces in the area, heavy cruisers and battleships. Two marine divisions went ashore and an army division followed.

    It became, for the Japanese, the Saipan disaster. Twenty days later, nearly all of them had perished. The Japanese general and also Admiral Nagumo, who had commanded at Midway, committed suicide, and hundreds of civilians, men and women terrified of being slaughtered, some of them mothers holding babies in their arms, leapt from the steep cliffs to their death on the sharp rocks...

About the Author-
  • James Salter is the author of numerous books, including the novels Solo Faces, Light Years, A Sport and a Pastime, The Arm of Flesh (revised as Cassada), and The Hunters; the memoirs Gods of Tin and Burning the Days; the collections Dusk and Other Stories, which won the 1989 PEN/Faulkner Award, and Last Night, which earned him the Rea Award for the Short Story and the PEN/Malamud Award; and Life Is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days, written with Kay Salter. He lives in New York and Colorado.

Reviews-
  • Monte Burke, Forbes "Haunting . . . Salter [is] maybe our best (and classiest) erotic novelist. In All That Is, as with much of Salter's work, plot isn't why you turn the page. You do so because you become fully immersed and interested in the lives he describes. The story of Philip Bowman, told in spare and compact language, [is] potent."
  • Michael Dirda, The New York Review of Books "Always an autobiographical writer, Salter here verges on the roman à clef; incidents, anecdotes, and people from his past are repurposed into mesmerizing fiction. . . . One feels the intensity of lived experience behind every line of All That Is. The facts may not reflect wie es eigentlich gewesen but the emotions are real, the events personally meaningful. Yet this is art too. Salter and his friends are not just transformed, they are transfigured, made radiant. . . . What makes this all so engaging is, first of all, Salter's gravely serious, precise, and musical prose, the close attention to the diction and rhythms of every phrase and paragraph. Just a word or two and even a minor character springs to life. . . . Second, there is the book's narrative architecture, the pleasing variousness of its scenes, chapters that might almost be short stories. . . . . Third, the book possesses, like virtually all of Salter's work, a Japanese simplicity and purity of line. Nothing goes on too long. No one ever shouts. Hearts break and lives are broken, but Salter's voice remains hushed, confiding, wise. Cheap art distracts, great art consoles. There is, however, a surprisingly strong extraliterary dimension to the book. . . . One can open to any page of Salter and find a striking image. . . . Salter, however, shouldn't be appreciated just for his epigrammatic sentences. The opening chapter of All That Is may well be the best piece of sustained descriptive prose he has ever written. . . . After years of being 'becalmed,' Salter has now rightly come to be regarded as one of the great writers of his generation."
  • Brian Thomas Gallagher, The Seattle Times "A much-anticipated occasion . . . At 87, Salter is one of the last writers of his generation (he went to high school with William F. Buckley and Jack Kerouac), and All That Is is firmly rooted in midcentury America. There is a gauzy, drifting quality to both Bowman's life and Salter's style. . . . This technique creates an uneasy suspension of gravity and evanescence, a sense of Bowman's life being at once deep and slight. All That Is seems to hint that though Philip Bowman is the protagonist, the book could have just as easily been about any of the other players, that all lives are of the same heft. This is the way of the world, of course. To ourselves, our story is meaningful, even profound. But to the sweep of time and humanity, we are largely incidental. Depending on your perspective, this is either a mere matter of fact or a deeply melancholic notion--and Salter plays it both ways. There are many erotic interludes. In Salter's work, sex is a corporeal ecstasy and an existential salve. Though here, the carnal passages have a palpable sense of an older man's nostalgia for the revelatory possibilities of sexual encounters. . . . As with Salter's other books, All That Is presents such a cogent portrait of restive loneliness that one feels implicated just by reading it, as if one's own life is also subject to his vision. That is, the book feels very true, even if the lives of the characters are quite different from our own."
  • Lawrence Rungren, Library Journal "Salter's tone combined with the post-World War II setting gives this work the feel of something from an earlier generation. With the ever-changing panorama of New York City and New York publishing as background, Salter addresses time, love, and the mystery and wonder of life itself."
  • Nicholas Mancusi, Newsday "Salter has been called 'The Master' . . . Bowman possesses an appreciation of his life as a kind of artistic experience unfolding only for him. . . . One of Salter's great gifts is to allow his main characters to disappear gracefully into the universe of his bo
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