Last Night (Magill's Literary Annual 2006)
The short story is perhaps the most peculiarly American of all the literary forms, one that seemingly sprang into existence not long after the United States’ inception. Most literary historians credit Edgar Allan Poe with creation of the form in the 1840’s, and it proved to be the ideal vehicle for miniaturists who wished to relate a brief tale with a limited number of characters for the growing periodical market. Such is the flexibility of the form that it can accommodate works as diverse as Poe’s tales of horror or the ironic humor of O. Henry. A common denominator in most short fiction, both past and present, is that it is primarily an entertainment medium for the masses. In the limited space of a few pages, a writer may tease with humor and irony, pummel the reader with the violence of his or her characters, or gently reach a moment of insightbut the writer’s chief goal is to leave the reader wanting more. This is somewhat problematic in the career of James Salter, an author who seems to be far more dedicated to the quality of his art than in increasing his readership and thus his income. While someone such as Richard Ford will delight his readers with his tales of infidelity in upper-middle-class America, Salter deals with the same theme and the same milieu but in more muted tones. This is evident in Last Night, a brief compilation of ten stories, many of which were previously published in magazines.
The opening work in the...
(The entire section is 1853 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2006)
Booklist 101, no. 13 (March 1, 2005): 1142.
Kirkus Reviews 73, no. 4 (February 15, 2005): 195.
The New Leader 88, no. 2 (March/April, 2005): 31-32.
The New York Review of Books 52, no. 12 (July 14, 2005): 30-33.
The New York Times Book Review 154 (June 12, 2005): 13.
Publishers Weekly 252, no. 7 (February 14, 2005): 51.
(The entire section is 34 words.)