'All That Is'
By James Salter
Alfred A. Knopf

At age 88, James Salter remains one of the great American writers. His 'A Sport and a Pastime' (1967) is an outright masterpiece, and it's tempting to say the same about his latest novel, 'All That Is.' It's about the adult life of Phillip Bowman, who makes his way from World War II's Pacific theater (Salter himself was a fighter pilot) to an office at a publishing house and a home shared with a Southern belle. At first, the style is a little jarring. Lives are spent and done in a matter of pages. Years speed past and events that seem full of meaning get negated, bluntly, 10 pages later. But once you get used to Salter's godly perspective, the book begins to have a cumulative effect. It's not comforting or consoling, but it feels like life as it's actually lived. It's clear-eyed, never maudlin, and Bowman is a living creature, awash in doubt, capable of kindnesses and stunning cruelties, circumspect about the fact that the story he tells himself about his life may not be totally true.