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Reading James Salter


To finish LIGHT YEARS I had to set aside an afternoon in the garden of a cafe, where I knew I could linger for two hours over one expensive glass of wine and the final pages without being interrupted. Around me, the talk of people working in tech, the new rich, speaking in earnest whispers about inventions that will make life easier, so that we may pass more swiftly and with less obstruction to the end, as I was passing to the end of the novel. Only I didn't want to finish it and be bereft of Viri and Nedra and their daughters, so that, the closer I came to the end, the slower I read, putting the novel down every paragraph or so. Time ground to a halt, and everything happening around me seemed to be connected to the book, so that there was no distinction between literature and life. A giant raven alit on the adjacent table to pick at the salads two women had abandoned, and this seemed significant, as did the light passing through what was left of my wine, hovering like a planchette on the bricks of the patio. Even the talk around me, which I would have ordinarily abhorred, seemed fraught with consequence. I knew anew the joy of reading as a child, sitting on the farmhouse porch, when I would raise my eyes from the Civil War novel and know the fields to be battlefields. The absorption of it, and the thrill of being deceived into believing in the reality of a parallel life, which has its dangers, as well, the way a window full of leaves and sky endangers birds. And then there were no more words, and I looked up, and the raven and I were the only ones left in the garden.
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