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Jill Krementz covers The Paris Review Spring Revel

James Salter photographed by Jill Krementz at MoMA on June 8, 1975.

The notion that anything can be invented wholly and that these invented things are classified as fiction and that other writing, presumably not made up, is called nonfiction strikes me as a very arbitrary separation of things. We know that most great novels and stories come not from things that are entirely invented, but from perfect knowledge and close observation. To say they are made up is an injustice in describing them. I sometimes say that I don't make up anything — obviously, that's not true. But I am usually uninterested in writers who say that everything comes out of the imagination. I would rather be in a room with someone who is telling me the story of his life, which may be exaggerated and even have lies in it, but I want to hear the true
story, essentially.
The Paris Review
Spring Revel
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Cipriani at 42nd Street


It's the Literary Gang's favorite annual party and this year The Paris Review honored James Salter, a writer revered among his peers. Mr. Salter, now 85 years old, is the author of novels which include Light Years, A Sport and a Pastime, and Solo Faces. He has published two short story collections, Last Night, and Dusk, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1989. A memoir, Burning the Days, was published in 1997.

On hand to present The Hadada Award to Mr. Salter was Robert Redford, who in 1969 co-starred with Gene Hackman in Downhill Racer. It is the story (screenplay by Salter) of a ruthlessly ambitious skier (Redford) competing for Olympic gold. Redford's most recent film, The Conspirator, opens this week.

The Terry Southern Prize for Humor presented by Fran Lebowitz went to Elif Batuman. The Plimpton Prize for fiction was given to April Ayers Lawson, and in this case, Ann Beattie did the honors.

Among the writers hosting tables were Donald Antrim, Hilton Als, Lewis Lapham, Mona Simpson, and Gay Talese. As always, Sarah Dudley Plimpton, with the help of her co-chairs Yves-Andre Istel and Kathleen Begala, made it all work. And work it did!
The centerpiece of each table was a vintage typewriter which had been either rented or loaned by various friends of the Review.
Detail of back space key on Corona typewriter shown in the photo above, on the right.
Slavic Soul Party warms up the crowd.
Lorin Stein, the editor of The Paris Review, giving an enthusiastic welcome to the evening's guests.

"To all of us, The Paris Review is much more than a job. It's more than a magazine. It is a legend. We all know that. We grew up with it. We at the Review have giant shoes to fill. We are walking in the footsteps of its founders, and of the editors and writers who inspired us when we were kids. It is the magazine which gave us the early works of both a Terry Southern and a James Salter."
Writer Ann Beattie presented The Plimpton Prize for Fiction. April Ayers Lawson won The Plimpton Prize
for Fiction.
Robert Redford, actor, director, Academy Award winner, founder of Sundance, and political activist.

Mr. Redford has recently directed Conspiracy, a civil war film with a brilliant screenplay by James Solomon, which addresses the not-very-well-known story of Mary Surratt, a woman caught up in the U.S. government witch hunt following the assassination of President Lincoln.
"One thing you have to know about Jim Salter is that he is really funny. He might have a melancholy demeanor but he has the smile of a 10-year-old."

"In 1969 when we were collaborating on Downhill Racer, we spent some time with the U.S. Ski team. Jim constructed a screenplay that was so lean, so spare and so essential. While we were collaborating, Jim told me a bit about how he writes: 'it is by the process of elimination that you get to the essence of things. It's like when you hold a leaf up to the sun, the sun will show you the veins of the leaf. I like to focus on the veins.'"

"Light Years is probably my favorite Salter book because of the complexity and how he nails it — the way Willa Cather does in her work. It's what's between the lines that matters."
Mr. Salter accepting the award, along with a standing ovation. "This is my Stockholm," he said.
Poet Paul Muldoon, who teaches at Princeton and who is the poetry editor of The New Yorker. It was a very rainy night, hence the rain spots on Mr. Muldoon's suit and his somewhat bedraggled look. Knopf editor Gary Fisketjon, who divides his time between NYC and Nashville
Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review, and the evening's host. Stacey Hadash and her husband, Terry McDonell. Mr. McDonell, the editor of Sports Illustrated, is the President of The Paris Review's Board of Directors.
Fran Lebowitz and Terry McDonell.
William and Bunny Beekman. Mr. Beekman is a lawyer at Debevoise & Plimpton. He was a student in my husband Kurt Vonnegut's writing class at Harvard when Kurt taught there in 1970.

Every week for the entire semester Kurt and I commuted to Cambridge together. We subsequently saw Bill many times in New York City over the ensuing years.
The New Yorker's Hilton Als. Literary agent Lynn Nesbit. When I asked Lynn if I would be seeing her Sunday night at the Opera Guild event at the Plaza she said, "No, I am flying off to Las Vegas with David Boies and a charterload of friends to celebrate his 70th birthday."
Honoree James Salter. Kay Eldredge, wife of James Salter. Ms. Eldridge collaborated with her husband on Life is Meals, published in 2006.
Nan and Gay Talese with Mr. Salter.
CNN's Fareed Zakaria. Duncan Hannah who is a painter and who has just won a Guggenheim. The 2011 awards were announced this week.
Diane Fisketjon and Rachel Cobb. I was Ms. Cobb's guest for dinner as her husband Morgan Entrekin was off at The London Book Fair.

Rachel Cobb is a talented photojournalist and her photograph of Francisco Goldman and his wife Aura Estrada on their wedding day was recently featured in both The New Yorker and The New York Times Book Review.

This was in conjunction with Mr. Goldman's poignant memoir about the death of his wife by drowning. The book, Say Her Name, was published by Mr. Entrekin's Grove/Atlantic and is one of the best books I've read this year.
Simon Doonan, Barney's fashion genius and guru. Bob Kerrey, former President of The New School. Mr. Kerry is very much involved with the issues of prison reform and clemency.
Nick McDonell and his mother, Joan McDonell.
Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater. Writers Donald Antrim and Louisa Thomas. Ms. Thomas's first book will soon be published by Penguin Press. It is called Conscience and is about four brothers during World War I.
Susanna Styron with producer, Jeff Sharpe. On the right is her sister Alexandra, whose memoir about Bill Styron will be published momentarily by Scribner's.
Artist Donald Sultan. John Habich.
Larissa MacFarquhar, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and Mary Karr. Ms. MacFarquhar is working on a book about extreme altruism.
Theo Salter, "an aspiring actor, writer and producer," with Caroline Cost. Sarah Plimpton, widow of George, who makes this evening an event that gets sold out every year as soon as the invitations arrive in the mail.
Lewis Lapham, editor of Lapham's Quarterly Ellen McCourt and Maria Matthiessen.
Kristin Sorenson, head of development for West Point, with Jim Salter. Mr. Salter graduated from West Point before he became an Air Force pilot in 1944.
Rose Styron. Theo Salter and his mother, Kay Eldredge.
Christopher Cox, an editor at Harper's Magazine; Georgia Cool, a literary agent; and Philip Gourevitch, former editor of The Paris Review, who can now concentrate full time on his own writing.
Syrie Moskowitz, a 23-year-old actress and
the director of a short film.
Members of the wait staff stood near the coat line so guests could nibble on tiny pastries as they departed a joyous evening celebrating a great writer.
In entrance foyer of The Cipriani one could check out various copies of The Paris Review as well as wonder why this vintage typewriter had such a large carriage.
Gift bags containing Paris Review T-shirts, copies of The Paris Review, as well as paperbacks of books by the evening's honerees.
I'm a 'frotteur', someone who likes to rub words in his hand, to turn them around and feel them, to wonder if that really is the best word possible. Does that word in this sentence have any electric potential? Does it do anything? Too much electricity will make your reader's hair frizzy. There's a question of pacing. You want short sentences and long sentences — well, every writer knows that. You have to develop a certain ease of delivery and make your writing agreeable to read.

As a boy, I was fascinated by soldiers and the First World War. Of course I'm not the only kid who had toy soldiers. Maybe part of it is cultural, imbibed, but I think it's more than that. We're still reading Homer, and when you read Christopher Logue's translation of 'The Iliad,' it is so immediate, so staggering. It would be going over the top if I said it changes your life, but for a moment it changes who you are and what you might be, which a terrific piece of writing can do.

Normally I think of a writer as someone who has read a lot and learned from reading, but I can imagine writers who have never read a thing: a voice from the crowd, from somebody who has only heard songs, or listened to talk on the street, or at work, or in bars, and who can say remarkable things, who is in touch with something true, either in themselves or outside themselves, I can see them writing, and writing very well. You don't have to have read everything to write.

I write in longhand. I am accustomed to that proximity, that feel of writing. Then I sit down and type. And then I retype, correct, retype, and keep going until it's finished. It's been demonstrated to me many times that there is some inefficiency in this, but I find that the ease of moving a paragraph is not really what I need. I need the opportunity to write this sentence again, to say it to myself again, to look at the paragraph once more, and actually to go through the whole text, line by line, very carefully, writing it out. There may be even some kind of mimetic impulse here where I am trying to write like myself, so to speak.
James Salter's quotations are from an interview conducted by poet Edward Hirsch for The Paris Review, The Art of Fiction No. 133.

Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz
all rights reserved.




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