What is a summary of A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

James Salter's novel A Sport and a Pastime is told through an unnamed and unreliable narrator. The narrator wants to move from busy, distracting Paris to the small French town of Autun, where friends of his named Cristina and Billy Wheatland own a house that they never use. The narrator gladly accepts their offer to move into their house. Prior to leaving Paris, the narrator meets Philip Dean, an American the narrator becomes enamored with despite the fact that Philip is an unemployed college dropout who lives off his father's wealth. Once in Autun, Philip joins the narrator.

The two begin a friendship full of travel and drunken, foolish behavior, but that comes to an end when Philip meets French Anne-Marie. The rest of the novel details the narrator's account of their developing relationship, a relationship the narrator embellishes with sexual fantasies due to the narrator's own obsession with Philip.

According to the narrator, Anne-Marie is in love with Philip and wants to marry and start a family, but Philip only sees Anne-Marie as a sex object he enjoys dominating. While they do marry one summer, their views on the marriage are polar opposites. Anne-Marie sees the marriage as one that will last until death do they part, but Philip sees it as only temporary. After a road trip, when the couple returns to Auton, Philip packs up to go back to America on the pretense that he wants to finish college. He promises to send for Anne-Marie. While it's doubtful he truly intended to send for her, neither the reader nor the narrator ever knows because, soon after returning to America, Philip is killed in an automobile accident. Anne-Marie is able to let go and move on with her life, but the narrator continues to be enamored with Philip and grieve.

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