Robert Hass, former US poet laureate, is some kind of genius bodhisattva avunucular Dumbledore of vernacular wisdom and a human Dewey Decimal to boot. He appears to possess perfect memory, possibly photographic, but for sure phonographic. He reads everything, and pulls entire poems from the invisible river flowing just above his head, strong shoulders and empathetic face. He asked what I was reading, which I assume neither of us really was all that interested in. Being a reasonably clever bibliofella I moved us directly to his recommendation: James Salter. When the former poet laureate suggests a writer whose novels and short stories you have not got to, you quickly try to catch up. “The new novel,” said Hass, “the sex one!” I ordered All That Is that night, from Powells. And as it happens (I love that phrase, name of a CBC radio show) the local Truckee thrift store had a copy of Salter’s short story collection, Dusk and Other Stories. Reading the first of those short, short sentences telegraphing their hurt, edgy recreations of expat alienation and lust seems a good place to have at last started.
Visit the website of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers for titles of books mentioned, author bios, and more on the conference, a 43-year tradition in the High Sierras founded by my own teacher at UCI, Oakley Hall, author of all kinds of amazing books. Maybe start with Warlock. Thomas Pynchon likes it. Just sayin’!
The Village at Squaw Valley Fill Up with Books in July