James Salter and the Brooklyn Public Library

 JamesSalter (2)

It’s a tough business being a writer’s writer it seems. James Salter died recently. I only heard of him a couple of years ago, thanks to a New Yorker profile.

He checked all my boxes. He had a stripped down style of prose, tales of derring-do and, best of all, he was revered by writers and unknown to almost everyone else. I set about buying his books and actually got around to reading one of them – The Hunters – which delivered exactly what I wanted (although with a slightly trite ending).

So I read all the obits when he died. And then… this. A few days ago I spotted his book of travel writing, There & Then, discarded on a Brooklyn sidewalk. (My neighbourhood is so rich that no-one knows what to do with the still-usable stuff they want to get rid of. They don’t have relatives that wear hand-me-downs, or know where the nearest charity shop is, so they simply dump it outside the house for people like me to take. Which is great… but very spooky in the case of children’s shoes).

Would you not have the decency to wait a few weeks before chucking it out? Or perhaps they had a thing about dead writers? Who knows?

Anyway, I picked it up only to discover it had a Brooklyn Public Library bar code. So this morning I pottered to my local branch where they told me the book was no longer registered with them, and I was free to keep it. Phew.

I think they might have thought I was bonkers.


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