Quotes from A Sport and a Pastime

James Salter ·  185 pages

Rating: (6.3K votes)


“One should not believe too strongly in a life which can easily vanish.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“As I look back, I see that life is like a game of solitaire and every once in a while there is a move.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“Now they are lovers. The first, wild courses are ended. They have founded their domain. A satanic happiness follows.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“Certain things I remember exactly as they were. They are merely discolored a bit by time, like coins in the pocket of a forgotten suit. Most of the details, though, have long since been transformed or rearranged to bring others of them forward. Some, in fact, are obviously counterfeit; they are no less important. One alters the past to form the future.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“One should not believe too easily in a life which can easily vanish.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime



“I am creating him out of my own inadequacies, you must remember that”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“Suddenly I like him. Cristina can't take her eyes away. She asks when he was born, and it turns out he's a Sagittarius which is a very good sign.
'Really?'
'It's one of the best for me,' she says. 'Scorpio is the worst.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“As Rilke says, there are no classes for beginners in life, the most difficult thing is always asked of one right away.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“None of this is true. I’ve said Autun, but it could easily have been Auxerre. I’m sure you’ll come to realize that. I am only putting down details which entered me, fragments that were able to part my flesh. It’s a story of things that never existed although even the faintest doubt of that, the smallest possibility, plunges everything into darkness. I only want whoever reads this to be as resigned as I am. There’s enough passion in the world already. Everything trembles with it. Not that I believe it shouldn’t exist, no, no, but this is only a thin, reflecting sliver which somehow keeps catching the light.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“She comes to life with a soft exhausted sound, like someone saved from drowning.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime



“His mother is dead. She was a suicide. Her marriage was terrifying to her. In the center of it she found herself completely alone. During the last year she sent long telegrams to her sister, sometimes quoting poetry, Swinburne, Blake. One day she burned her diaries, a spring day, and walked into the Connecticut River to drown, just like Virginia Woolf or Madame Magritte. She was buried in Boston, her home. I could see the ceremony. Dean is six years old and his sister three. They stand stunned and obedient as the great, glistening coffin is lowered into the ground. Within lies the drowned woman who had given them life and who now gives an example of melancholy and commitment which will stay with them forever. Clods of earth thunder onto the hollow lid and, half-orphan, bearer of his mother’s death which is not yet even real, he begins his life. Much of it you know, at any rate college, the wanderings. Now, at twenty-four, he has come to the time of choice. I know quite well how all that is. And then, I read his letters. His father writes to him in the most beautiful, educated hand, the born hand of a copyist. Admonitions to confront life, to think a little more seriously about this or that. I could have laughed. Words that meant nothing to him. He has already set out on a dazzling voyage which is more like an illness, becoming ever more distant, more legendary. His life will be filled with those daring impulses which cause him to disappear and next be heard of in Dublin, in Veracruz… I am not telling the truth about Dean, I am inventing him. I am creating him out of my own inadequacies, you must always remember that.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“Great lovers lie in hell, the poet says. Even now, long afterwards, I cannot destroy the images. They remain within me like the yearnings of an addict. I need only hear certain words, see certain gestures, and my thoughts begin to tumble. I despise myself for thinking of her. Even if she were dead, I would feel the same. Her existence blackens my life.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“There are men who seem to have seized the trunk of life, and he was one of them. It might not be for everyone, the great, scarring thing you could not get your arms around, but it was there for him.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“She begins to strip like a roommate and climb into bed.

They have fallen asleep. Dean wakes first, in the early afternoon. He unfastens her stockings and slowly rolls them off. Her skirt is next and then her underpants. She opens her eyes. The garter belt he leaves on, to confirm her nakedness. He rests his head there.

Her hand touches his chest and begins to fall in excruciating slow designs.

He lies still as a dog beneath it, still as an idiot.

The next morning she is recovered. His prick is hard. She takes it in her hand. They always sleep naked. Their flesh is innocent and warm. In the end she is arranged across the pillows, a ritual she accepts without a word.

It is half an hour before they fall apart, spent, and call for breakfast. She eats both her rolls and one of his.

“There was a lot,” she says.

She glistens with it. The inside of her thighs is wet.

“How long does it take to make again?” she asks.

Dean tries to think. He is remembering biology.

“Two or three days,” he guesses.

“Non, non!” she cries. That is not what she meant.

She begins to make him hard again. In a few minutes he rolls her over and puts it in as if the intermission were ended. This time she is wild. The great bed begins creaking. Her breath becomes short. Dean has to brace his hands on the wall. He hooks his knees outside her legs and drives himself deeper.

“Oh,” she breathes, “that’s the best.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“The most devout moments of my life have been spent in bed at night listening to those bells. They flood over me, drawing me out of myself. I know where I am suddenly; part of this town and happy. I lean out of the window and am washed by the cool air, air it seems no one has yet breathed.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime



“I am afraid of him, of all men who are successful in love.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“His devotion is complete; he is beginning to sense the confusion that arises from the first fears of what life would be like without her. He knows there can be such a thing, but like the answer to a difficult problem, he cannot imagine it.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“Anne-Marie Costallat, born October 8, 1944. I was beginning high school and masturbating twice a day, curling over it like a dead leaf, when she was born, in a bed of violets, as she says—all French mothers tell their children that.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“Dean is still asleep. His clothes are strewn about. The shutters are closed. He never dreams. He’s like a dead musician, like a spent runner. He hasn’t the strength to dream, or rather, his dreams take place while he is awake and they are marvelous for at least one quality: he has the power to prolong them.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“The summer has ended. The garden withers. The mornings become chill. I am thirty, I am thirty-four–the years turn dry as leaves.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime



“Certain things I remember exactly as they were. They are merely discolored a bit by time, like coins in the pocket of a forgotten suit.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“She is married. I suppose there are children. They walk together on Sundays, the sunlight falling upon them. They visit friends, talk, go home in the evening, deep in the life we all agree is so greatly to be desired.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“One feels pan of a vast servitude, anonymous and unending, all of it vanishing unexpectedly with the passing image of Madame Picquet behind the glass of her office, that faintly vulgar, thrilling profile. As I think of it, there’s an ache in my chest. I cannot control these dreams in which she seems to lie in my future like a whole season of extravagant meals if only I knew how to arrange it.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“It was among the knowledgeable others that one hoped to be talked about and admired. It was not impossible—the world of squadrons is small. The years would bow to you; you would be remembered, your name like a thoroughbred’s, a horse that ran and won.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“He no longer lives in years; he is down to seasons. Finally it will become single nights, each one perilous as a lunar journey. He”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime



“He unrolls names like a splendid carpet.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“As I think of it, there’s an ache in my chest. I cannot control these dreams in which she seems to lie in my future like a whole season of extravagant meals if only I knew how to arrange it.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


“But of course, in one sense, Dean never died - his existence is superior to such accidents. One must have heroes, which is to say, one must create them. And they become real through our envy, our devotion. It is we who give them their majesty, their power, which ourselves could never possess. And in turn, they give some back. But they are mortal, these heroes, just as we are. They do not last forever. They fade. They vanish. They are surpassed, forgotten - one hears of them no more.”
― James Salter, quote from A Sport and a Pastime


About the author

James Salter
Born place: in New York City, The United States
Born date June 10, 1925
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