James Salter – A Life of Dreams


James Salter lived a varied life: fighter pilot, screen writer and novelist.

He wrote, There comes a time when you realise that everything is a dream, and only those things preserved in writing have any possibility of being real.

Are all experiences ephemeral and only the written word endures (Ozymandias, King of Kings)?

Salter’s writing flows with images and sensations like a dream, but a dream with a narrative and a purpose.

Not a dream than?

As if life itself lacks a narrative and a purpose, except when writing.

Salter could, like anyone, only write about his experiences or imaginary extensions of them.

His first novel, The Hunters, was about dog fighting with MiGs during the Korean War. There must have been times when it felt unreal and other times when it was the essence of life itself: the hot breath of it (but I am not a fighter pilot).

Was he saying, I am nothing if I do not write? It is pivotal to who I am; without it I have no tangible existence; I am a train of thoughts and reactions in a world I do not trust is real.

An act of faith too.

If the written word is all I am, I hope people will want to read what I have written. I hope they will want to share who I was, whether they find something worthwhile or something paltry.

Because, if I am successful, I will endure, I was alive.

Godspeed James Salter, you were an inspiration.