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All That Is [NOOK Book]

Overview

An extraordinary literary event, a major new novel by the PEN/Faulkner winner and acclaimed master: a sweeping, seductive, deeply moving story set in the years after World War II.

From his experiences as a young naval officer in battles off Okinawa, Philip Bowman returns to America and finds a position as a book editor. It is a time when publishing is still largely a private affair—a scattered family of small houses here and in Europe—a time ...

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All That Is

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Overview

An extraordinary literary event, a major new novel by the PEN/Faulkner winner and acclaimed master: a sweeping, seductive, deeply moving story set in the years after World War II.

From his experiences as a young naval officer in battles off Okinawa, Philip Bowman returns to America and finds a position as a book editor. It is a time when publishing is still largely a private affair—a scattered family of small houses here and in Europe—a time of gatherings in fabled apartments and conversations that continue long into the night. In this world of dinners, deals, and literary careers, Bowman finds that he fits in perfectly. But despite his success, what eludes him is love. His first marriage goes bad, another fails to happen, and finally he meets a woman who enthralls him—before setting him on a course he could never have imagined for himself.

Romantic and haunting, All That Is explores a life unfolding in a world on the brink of change. It is a dazzling, sometimes devastating labyrinth of love and ambition, a fiercely intimate account of the great shocks and grand pleasures of being alive. 

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
PEN/Faulkner winner Salter publishes rarely—this is his first fiction in seven years—but when he does, it's choice. This novel features World War II veteran Philip Bowman, now a book editor, who enjoys the charged and intimate environment of the era's publishing world yet suffers in his emotional life. A real in-house favorite; don't miss.
Library Journal
Navy man Philip Bowman returns from World War II uncertain about his future. He takes a job at Braden and Baum, a small New York literary publisher, and though he is gradually promoted, romantic relationships form the center of his life. Bowman meets his first wife shortly after starting his job, but his New Jersey background is very different from Vivian's horse-country Virginia upbringing, and their marriage dissolves. While on a business trip he meets Enid, an Englishwoman whose background is equally different from his own. The two begin a torrid affair that distance eventually cools. On a cab ride following another business trip, he encounters Christine, a realtor, and begins another affair. VERDICT Salter's tone combined with the post-World War II setting gives this work the feel of something from an earlier generation. With the ever-changing panorama of New York City and New York publishing as background, Salter addresses time, love, and the mystery and wonder of life itself. [See Prepub Alert, 5/1/12.]—Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA
The New York Times Book Review - Malcolm Jones
…casts the last four decades in a completely new light, not coda but overture. The brilliantly compressed stories in which life is lit by lightning flash, the humane memoir that generously exalts, more than anything, the lineaments of ordinary existence—it's all here, subsumed and assimilated in the service of a work that manages to be both recognizable (no one but Salter could have written it) and yet strikingly original, vigorous proof that this literary lion is still very much on the prowl…The everyday may be one of the hardest things to write about—the quotidian doings, including the outright tedium, of ordinary life…to pull it off…to indelibly record the trivial and the portentous with the same ravenous affection, thereby persuading us that there may be no difference between the two when assaying the worth of a life or divining its mystery—that is a crowning achievement and it's Salter's to claim.
The Washington Post - Lisa Zeidner
The novel is similar in design and tone to what Salter has always offered: a plaintive, impressionistic look at how we live in time, how little we ever understand about the amorphous shape of our own lives…the novel is not plot-driven…The men travel on expense accounts—London, Spain—and while there they drink and eat and have sex and muse on art. In the hands of another writer, such material might seem static or trivial. But All That Is convinces us that this is all that is. Salter is mostly concerned with the plangent texture of the daily, with the light or rain outside a window, with a city's vibrancy or, always, the way that sex reconfigures perception…
Publishers Weekly
The 87-year-old PEN/Faulkner Award–winner’s (Dusk and Other Stories) first full-length novel in more than three decades spans some 40 years and follows the accidental life, career, and loves of book editor Philip Bowman. After serving in the Pacific during WWII, Bowman stumbles into publishing at a time when small houses reigned. During extravagant literary parties and travels through Europe, Bowman shares his thoughts on authors both real and imagined. And yet his career is merely a vehicle for his loves and losses, connections made and missed. The women in his life somehow never suit and his many endings are always inexplicable to him. But Salter renders the first blushes of Bowman’s loves exquisitely—their giddiness, occasional illicitness, eroticism—and his bewilderment after the relationships fail feels achingly real. By way of counterpoint, the author illustrates the happy but tragic marriage of a close friend, which parallels rather than intersects, since Bowman fails to connect with anyone. The number of characters who parade through the book can frustrate, and Salter’s choice to render, for a chapter, a well-known character anonymously was unnecessary. But Salter measures his words carefully, occasionally punctuating his elegant prose with sharp, erotic punches. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
“A crowning achievement. . . . If there were a Mount Rushmore for writers, [Salter] would be there already.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Magnificent. . . . A major literary event. . . . Salter, who has the gift of writing sentences that exactly reproduce what we feel and think in the moment we feel and think it, moves beyond that incomparable skill and does something even more difficult: He gives us his heart.”
The Huffington Post

“Magical . . . A plaintive, impressionistic look at how we live in time.”
The Washington Post

“Vividly sketched. . . . Salter’s surprising, striking grace is there in every scene. . . . Breathtaking.”
Chicago Tribune

“Intimate, rueful and finely observed.”
Time

“A writer of tremendous ability. . . . An absolute stunner.”
The Christian Science Monitor

“Shimmering. . . . Intoxicating. . . . Few can match Salter’s depictions of life’s physical pleasures, the sheer sensual delight of being in this world. . . . All That Is will last.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Exquisite. . . . A mature, unsentimental story of one man’s restless search for love. . . . [Salter] captures the angst of the privileged classes who seem to have all anyone could desire and yet long for something that lies just out of reach. . . . Effortlessly beautiful.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

 “The best novel I’ve read in years. All That Is will be treasured by its readers. Salter’s vivid, lucid prose does exquisite justice to his subject—the relentless struggle to make good on our own humanity. Once again he has delivered to us a novel of the highest artistry.”
—Tim O’Brien

“A much-anticipated occasion. . . . The book feels very true, even if the lives of the characters are quite different from our own.”
The Seattle Times

“A sexy, bittersweet story.”
Los Angeles Times

“Striking. . . . Seamless. . . . Beautifully done.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“[Salter is] one of the finest prose stylists and most enviable American writers of the last half century. . . . [All That Is is] the capstone of his half-century-long career.”
GQ “Read of the Month”

“A consistently elegant and enjoyable novel, full of verve and wisdom.” —Julian Barnes
“Fantastic. . . . A brilliant indictment of love, even as it revels in its sensual transports.” —Slate

“Salter [is] looking like the last exponent of a particular strain of 20th-century American fiction, deeply informed by the aspirations of postwar America. . . . He stands poised for a victory lap.” 
The Village Voice

“A sad, hopeful work that beautifully evokes the pleasures and disappointments of a life lived in books, relationships, America.”
Guernica

 “Salter has been called ‘The Master’. . . . Bowman’s life, like Salter’s, coincides almost perfectly with the rise of American power and the brief, golden era of publishing. All That Is is not only the story of Bowman’s life but also of almost every life with which his intersects.”
Newsday

“This masterpiece is a smooth, absorbing narrative studded with bright particulars. If God is in the details, this book is divine.”
—Edmund White

“Salter is a brilliant writer. . . . [All That Is is a] journey led by a true master of the written word. . . . Intensely beautiful.”
Associated Press

“You come away from [Salter’s] work wondering if you should have lived more, even if living more, in his work, often leads to ruin.”
The New Yorker

 “Salter is par excellence the explorer of depths, a diver seeking the hidden, vital wellsprings of our consciousness. . . . [He’s] done as much as any American writer to give us the sense of what it actually feels like to be alive and gripped by the fever of existence.”
The Dallas Morning News

Kirkus Reviews
In his first fiction since the story collection Last Night (2005), the acclaimed veteran author chronicles the life and loves of a Manhattan book editor over a 40-year period. Okinawa, 1945. The Americans and Japanese are preparing for the climactic battle of the Pacific. Salter's sweep is panoramic but his eye, God-like, is also on the sparrow, a 20-year-old officer in the U.S. Navy, Philip Bowman. It's a stunning opening, displaying a mastery of scale that will not be repeated. Bowman is the protagonist: loyal, conscientious, a virgin (there's no rush), from a modest home in New Jersey. He's very close to his schoolteacher mother (father absconded in his infancy). After Harvard, Bowman is hired by the high-principled owner of a small literary publishing house. He meets Vivian at a bar. She's from Virginia, part of a rich, horsey set. As lovers, they transcend mortality, becoming gods and goddesses. Everyday life is more difficult. Bowman believes the unlettered Vivian, now his bride, is educable; she's not. At a Christmas house party in Virginia, the young couple is obscured by hard-drinking minor characters with easy morals. The narrative is studded with these striking vignettes; in retrospect, they're a swirling mass, losing their particularity. In London on a business trip, Bowman meets a married woman, just as rich, and scales new heights of passion with her; their affair will fizzle out, like his marriage to Vivian. Bowman's work gets less attention. Salter writes with cosmopolitan ease but avoids the nitty-gritty of the business; Bowman floats above all that, while somehow acquiring the respect of his peers. His third great passion is a disaster. An ill-defined American woman with a teenage daughter appears to be his soul mate; then she cheats on him. Four years later, Bowman uses the daughter in a shockingly cruel way; to make matters worse, this thoughtful man fails to examine his conduct. Without his self-knowledge, there is nothing to knit the novel together. There are incidental pleasures here but, overall, a disappointing return.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307961099
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/2/2013
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 153,766
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

James Salter is the author of numerous books, including the novels Solo Faces, Light Years, A Sport and a Pastime, The Arm of Flesh (revised as Cassada), and The Hunters; the memoirs Gods of Tin and Burning the Days; the collections Dusk and Other Stories, which won the 1989 PEN/Faulkner Award, and Last Night, which earned him the Rea Award for the Short Story and the PEN/Malamud Award; and Life Is Meals: A Food Lover’s Book of Days, written with Kay Salter. He lives in New York and Colorado.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
Break of Day
 
All night in darkness the water sped past.
 
In tier on tier of iron bunks below deck, silent, six deep, lay hundreds of men, many face-up with their eyes still open though it was near morning. The lights were dimmed, the engines throbbing endlessly, the ventilators pulling in damp air, fifteen hundred men with their packs and weapons heavy enough to take them straight to the bottom, like an anvil dropped in the sea, part of a vast army sailing towards Okinawa, the great island that was just to the south of Japan. In truth, Okinawa was Japan, part of the homeland, strange and unknown. The war that had been going on for three and a half years was in its final act. In half an hour the first groups of men would file in for breakfast, standing as they ate, shoulder to shoulder, solemn, unspeaking. The ship was moving smoothly with faint sound. The steel of the hull creaked.
 
The war in the Pacific was not like the rest of it. The distances alone were enormous. There was nothing but days on end of empty sea and strange names of places, a thousand miles between them. It had been a war of many islands, of prying them from the Japanese, one by one. Guadalcanal, which became a legend. The Solomons and the Slot. Tarawa, where the landing craft ran aground on reefs far from shore and the men were slaughtered in enemy fire dense as bees, the horror of the beaches, swollen bodies lolling in the surf, the nation’s sons, some of them beautiful.
 
In the beginning with frightening speed the Japanese had overrun everything, all of the Dutch East Indies, Malaya, the Philippines. Great strongholds, deep fortifications known to be impregnable, were swept over in a matter of days. There had been only one counter stroke, the first great carrier battle in the middle of the Pacific, near Midway, where four irreplaceable Japanese carriers went down with all their planes and veteran crews. A staggering blow, but still the Japanese were relentless. Their grip on the Pacific would have to be broken finger by iron finger.
 
The battles were endless and unpitying, in dense jungle and heat. Near the shore, afterwards, the palms stood naked, like tall stakes, every leaf shot away. The enemy were savage fighters, the strange pagoda-like structures on their warships, their secret hissing language, their stockiness and ferocity. They did not surrender. They fought to the death. They executed prisoners with razor swords, two-handed swords raised high overhead, and they were merciless in victory, arms thrust aloft in mass triumph.
 
By 1944, the great, final stages had begun. Their object was to bring the Japanese homeland within range of heavy bombers. Saipan was the key. It was large and heavily defended. The Japanese army had not been defeated in battle, disregarding the outposts—New Guinea, the Gilberts, places such as that—for more than 350 years. There were twenty-five thousand Japanese troops on the island of Saipan commanded to yield nothing, not an inch of ground. In the order of earthly things, the defense of Saipan was deemed a matter of life and death.
 
In June, the invasion began. The Japanese had dangerous naval forces in the area, heavy cruisers and battleships. Two marine divisions went ashore and an army division followed.
 
It became, for the Japanese, the Saipan disaster. Twenty days later, nearly all of them had perished. The Japanese general and also Admiral Nagumo, who had commanded at Midway, committed suicide, and hundreds of civilians, men and women terrified of being slaughtered, some of them mothers holding babies in their arms, leapt from the steep cliffs to their death on the sharp rocks below.
 
It was the knell. The bombing of the main islands of Japan was now possible, and in the most massive of the raids, a firebombing of Tokyo, more than eighty thousand people died in the huge inferno in a single night.
 
Next, Iwo Jima fell. The Japanese pronounced an ultimate pledge: the death of a hundred million, the entire population, rather than surrender.
 
In the path of it lay Okinawa.
 
Day was rising, a pale Pacific dawn that had no real horizon with the tops of the early clouds gathering light. The sea was empty. Slowly the sun appeared, flooding across the water and turning it white. A lieutenant jg named Bowman had come on deck and was standing at the railing, looking out. His cabinmate, Kimmel, silently joined him. It was a day Bowman would never forget. Neither would any of them.
 
“Anything out there?”
 
“Nothing.”
 
“Not that you can see,” Kimmel said.
 
He looked forward, then aft.
 
“It’s too peaceful,” he said.
 
Bowman was navigation officer and also, he had learned just two days earlier, lookout officer.
 
“Sir,” he had asked, “what does that entail?”
 
“Here’s the manual,” the exec said. “Read it.”
 
He began that night, turning down the corner of certain pages as he read.
 
“What are you doing?” Kimmel asked.
 
“Don’t bother me right now.”
 
“What are you studying?”
 
“A manual.”
 
“Jesus, we’re in the middle of enemy waters and you’re sitting there reading a manual? This is no time for that. You’re supposed to already know what to do.”
 
Bowman ignored him. They had been together from the beginning, since midshipman’s school, where the commandant, a navy captain whose career had collapsed when his destroyer ran aground, had a copy of A Message to Garcia, an inspirational text from the Spanish-American War, placed on every man’s bunk. Captain McCreary had no future but he remained loyal to the standards of the past. He drank himself into a stupor every night but was always crisp and well-shaved in the morning. He knew the book of navy regulations by heart and had bought the copies of A Message to Garcia with money from his own pocket. Bowman had read the Message carefully, years later he could still recite parts of it. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba—no one knew where . . . The point was simple: Do your duty fully and absolutely without unnecessary questions or excuses. Kimmel had cackled as he read it.
 
“Aye, aye, sir. Man the guns!”
 
He was dark-haired and skinny and walked with a loose gait that made him seem long-legged. His uniform always looked somehow slept in. His neck was too thin for his collar. The crew, among themselves, called him the Camel, but he had a playboy’s aplomb and women liked him. In San Diego he had taken up with a lively girl named Vicky whose father owned a car dealership, Palmetto Ford. She had blond hair, pulled back, and a touch of daring. She was drawn to Kimmel immediately, his indolent glamour. In the hotel room that he had gotten with two other officers and where, he explained, they would be away from the noise of the bar, they sat drinking Canadian Club and Coke.
 
“How did it happen?” he asked.
 
“How did what happen?”
 
“My meeting someone like you.”
 
“You certainly didn’t deserve it,” she said.
 
He laughed.
 
“It was fate,” he said.
 
She sipped her drink.
 
“Fate. So, am I going to marry you?”
 
“Jesus, are we there already? I’m not old enough to get married.”
 
“You’d probably only deceive me about ten times in the first year,” she said.
 
“I’d never deceive you.”
 
“Ha ha.”
 
She knew exactly what he was like, but she would change that. She liked his laugh. He’d have to meet her father first, she commented.
 
“I’d love to meet your father,” Kimmel answered in seeming earnestness. “Have you told him about us?”
 
“Do you think I’m crazy? He’d kill me.”
 
“What do you mean? For what?”
 
“For getting pregnant.”
 
“You’re pregnant?” Kimmel said, alarmed.
 
“Who knows?”
 
Vicky Hollins in her silk dress, the glances clinging to her as she passed. In heels she wasn’t that short. She liked to call herself by her last name. It’s Hollins, she would announce on the phone.
 
They were shipping out, that was what made it all real or a form of real.
 
“Who knows if we’ll get back,” he said casually.
 
Her letters had come in the two sackfuls of mail that Bowman had brought back from Leyte. He’d been sent there by the exec to try and find the ship’s mail at the Fleet Post Office—they’d had none for ten days—and he had flown back with it, triumphant, in a TBM. Kimmel read parts of her letters aloud for the benefit, especially, of Brownell, the third man in the cabin. Brownell was intense and morally pure, with a knotted jaw that had traces of acne. Kimmel liked to bait him. He sniffed at a page of the letter. Yeah, that was her perfume, he said, he’d recognize it anywhere.
 
“And maybe something else,” he speculated. “I wonder. You think she might have rubbed it against her . . . Here,” he said, offering it to Brownell, “tell me what you think.”
 
“I wouldn’t know,” Brownell said uneasily. The knots in his jaw showed.
 
“Oh, sure you would, an old pussy hound like you.”
 
“Don’t try and involve me in your lechery,” Brownell said.
 
“It’s not lechery, she’s writing to me because we fell in love. It’s something beautiful and pure.”
 
“How would you know?”
 
Brownell was reading The Prophet.
 
The Prophet. What’s that?” Kimmel said. “Let me see it. What does it do, tell us what’s going to happen?”
Brownell didn’t answer.
 
The letters were less exciting than a page filled with feminine handwriting would suggest. Vicky was a talker and her letters were a detailed and somewhat repetitive account of her life, which consisted in part of going back to all the places she and Kimmel had been to, usually in the company of Susu, her closest friend, and also in the company of other young naval officers, but thinking always of Kimmel. The bartender remembered them, she said, a fabulous couple. Her closings were always a line from a popular song. I didn’t want to do it, she wrote.
 
Bowman had no girlfriend, faithful or otherwise. He’d had no experience of love but was reluctant to admit it. He simply let the subject pass when women were discussed and acted as though Kimmel’s dazzling affair was more or less familiar ground to him. His life was the ship and his duties aboard. He felt loyalty to it and to a tradition that he respected, and he felt a certain pride when the captain or exec called out, “Mr. Bowman!” He liked their reliance, offhanded though it might be, on him.
 
He was diligent. He had blue eyes and brown hair combed back. He’d been diligent in school. Miss Crowley had drawn him aside after class and told him he had the makings of a fine Latinist, but if she could see him now in his uniform and sea-tarnished insignia, she would have been very impressed. From the time he and Kimmel had joined the ship at Ulithi, he felt he had performed well.
 
How he would behave in action was weighing on his mind that morning as they stood looking out at the mysterious, foreign sea and then at the sky that was already becoming brighter. Courage and fear and how you would act under fire were not among the things you talked about. You hoped, when the time came, that you would be able to do as expected. He had faith, if not complete, in himself, then in the leadership, the seasoned names that guided the fleet. Once, in the distance he had seen, low and swift-moving, the camouflaged flagship, the New Jersey, with Halsey aboard. It was like seeing, from afar, the Emperor at Ratisbon. He felt a kind of pride, even fulfillment. It was enough.
 
The real danger would come from the sky, the suicide attacks, the kamikaze—the word meant “divine wind,” the heaven-sent storms that had saved Japan from the invasion fleet of Kublai Khan centuries before. This was the same intervention from on high, this time by bomb-laden planes flying directly into the enemy ships, their pilots dying in the act.
 
The first such attack had been in the Philippines a few months earlier. A Japanese plane dove into a heavy cruiser and exploded, killing the captain and many more. From then on the attacks multiplied. The Japanese would come in irregular groups, appearing suddenly. Men watched with almost hypnotic fascination and fear as they came straight down towards them through dense antiaircraft fire or swept in low, skimming the water. To defend Okinawa the Japanese had planned to launch the greatest kamikaze assault of all. The loss of ships would be so heavy that the invasion would be driven back and destroyed. It was not just a dream. The outcome of great battles could hinge on resolve.
 
Through the morning, though, there was nothing. The swells rose and slid past, some bursting white, spooling out and breaking backwards. There was a deck of clouds. Beneath, the sky was bright.
 
The first warning of enemy planes came in a call from the bridge, and Bowman was running to his cabin to get his life jacket when the alarm for General Quarters sounded, overwhelming everything else, and he passed Kimmel in a helmet that looked too big for him racing up the steel steps crying, “This is it! This is it!” The firing had started and every gun on the ship and on those nearby took it up. The sound was deafening. Swarms of antiaircraft fire were floating upwards amid dark puffs. On the bridge the captain was hitting the helmsman on the arm to get him to listen. Men were still getting to their stations. It was all happening at two speeds, the noise and desperate haste of action and also at a lesser speed, that of fate, with dark specks in the sky moving through the gunfire. They were distant and it seemed the firing could not reach them when suddenly something else began, within the din a single dark plane was coming down and like a blind insect, unerring, turning towards them, red insignia on its wings and a shining black cowling. Every gun on the ship was firing and the seconds were collapsing into one another. Then with a huge explosion and geyser of water the ship lurched sideways beneath their feet—the plane had hit them or just alongside. In the smoke and confusion no one knew.
 
“Man overboard!”
 
“Where?”
 
“Astern, sir!”
 
It was Kimmel who, thinking the magazine amidship had been hit, had jumped. The noise was still terrific, they were firing at everything. In the wake of the ship and trying to swim amid the great swells and pieces of wreckage, Kimmel was vanishing from sight. They could not stop or turn back for him. He would have drowned but miraculously he was seen and picked up by a destroyer that was almost immediately sunk by another kamikaze and the crew rescued by a second destroyer that, barely an hour later, was razed to the waterline. Kimmel ended up in a naval hospital. He became a kind of legend. He’d jumped off his ship by mistake and in one day had seen more action than the rest of them would see in the entire war. Afterwards, Bowman lost track of him. Several times over the years he tried to locate him in Chicago but without any luck. More than thirty ships were sunk that day. It was the greatest ordeal of the fleet during the war.

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Reading Group Guide

1. All That Is is preceded by an epigraph: “There comes a time when you realize that everything is a dream, and only those things preserved in writing have any possibility of being real.” In what ways does this enigmatic statement illuminate the story that follows? Why would it be that only things preserved in writing are “real”?

2. James Salter has been called “a writer’s writer” and praised for the artistry of his sentences. What are the most appealing qualities of Salter’s prose style? In what ways does his writing differ from that of most contemporary novelists?

3. The novel is told primarily from Bowman’s point of view, but the narrative shifts perspectives, and the narrator reveals things that Bowman can’t know about. What is the effect of Salter switching between viewpoints and keeping a fair authorial distance from his characters?

4. What kind of man is Philip Bowman? What are his most striking attributes? What drives him? In what ways is he both flawed and honorable? Does he change in any essential way over the course of the novel?

5. In All That Is Salter eschews a conventional plot in favor of a more episodic, impressionistic, associative structure. What are the pleasures of reading such a narrative? In what ways does it feel closer to the way life actually happens, or is remembered, than a more tightly structured narrative might seem?

6. Bowman’s proposal to Vivian, which takes place in a crowded bar, is decidedly awkward. “What would you think,” he asks, “about living here [in New York City]? I mean, we’d be married, of course.” Vivian replies: “There’s so much noise in here,” and then asks, “Was that a proposal?” Bowman says, “It was pitiful, wasn’t it? Yes, it’s a proposal. I love you. I need you. I’d do anything for you.” Vivian never directly accepts. Instead, she says, “We’ll have to get Daddy’s permission” [p. 59]. What does Salter suggest in this scene, simply through dialogue, about Bowman and Vivian’s relationship and its chances for success?

7. Why does Bowman’s marriage to Vivian fail? Why is he blind to their incompatibilities?

8. In the chapter titled “Forgiveness,” Bowman has a brief, intense affair with Christine’s daughter, Anet, and then abandons her in Paris. “He had forgiven her mother. Come and get your daughter” [p. 311]. Why does Bowman exact his revenge on Christine through her daughter? Is his cruelty justified given how Christine treated him? What are the consequences of his actions?

9. Enid tells Bowman during their second conversation, “I don’t think you ever really know anybody” [p. 123]. Does the novel itself seem to endorse that view? What instances in the book demonstrate the inability of one person to fully know another?

10. All That Is begins with the final, harrowing battles of WWII, the kamikaze attacks, the bloody invasion of Okinawa. How does his experience of the war affect Bowman? In what ways does the war provide the defining context for the rest of his life?

11. The novel is filled with vivid portraits of minor characters—Bowman’s war buddies, friends in publishing, lovers, in-laws, publishers, etc. What do these minor characters add to the texture of the narrative? Who are some of the most memorable among them?

12. How does Bowman regard women? Is he a romantic? What does erotic experience represent for him? What does he love about Vivian, Enid, Christine?

13. In an interview with the Paris Review, Salter said “I believe there’s a right way to live and to die. The people who can do that are interesting to me. I haven’t dismissed heroes or heroism.” Does All That Is present an ethos or right way of living? Is Philip Bowman heroic?

14. All That Is concludes with Bowman and Ann planning a trip to Venice. “We’ll have a great time,” Bowman says. What is the effect of this open-ended ending? Are there any signs that Bowman’s relationship with Ann will be any more lasting than his others have been?

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2013

    Plodding

    Slow moving and plodding. Kept waiting for it to grab my attention and interest, but it never did.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2013

    Old men and young sex again?

    Dull, some lovely passages, but nothing new or remarkable

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2013

    Tiresome

    A series of shallow run on sentences leading to shear boredom.

    1 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2013

    There are a few moments of poignancy, particularly with Bowman's

    There are a few moments of poignancy, particularly with Bowman's friend, Eddins, but overall the novel just doesn't have that much to offer. I'm surprised the writer Tim O'Brien would be so moved by it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2013

    Spare wording and concise sentences manage to convey enormous fe

    Spare wording and concise sentences manage to convey enormous feelings.  I found myself pausing to appreciate a paragraph, or relate to an event with understanding, appreciation and occasionally, regret.  What a delight to read, and absorb.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2013

      

      

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2013

    Well written, worth the time

    Well written, worth the time

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews

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