I am still in Amagansett, although my time here is fading... I woke up to a suite of cameraphone shots, sent with dinner plans from the next place I'm due, in ten days, the six-hour flight followed by the three-hour drive though it looks like the destination amply compensates all comers. I've gone down to the sea twice so far today –– a line from James Salter's reading of "Twenty Minutes," a story he read from Dusk the other night at Bookhampton, ringing in my ears, where a woman, in the waning moments of her life, skips over the surface of memory with so many stones, one being that she had never spent a year by the sea. I wonder at the things I did not do in my twenties, mostly live abroad, or somewhere chosen for a reason other than the one that drew me to New York, and dictated most of my decisions in life to date: mercantile concerns, in the worst way.
Last night I started Salter's memoir, Burning the Days, and the rest today. I loved the perspective, glancing over his shoulder at several decades lived, several lives shed. His confessions, spurtive with flamed desire and delivered with the requisite studied casualness of one constantly on the make, a student of the make, always in class, possess the same quality as remembrance of smoking's pleasure: cool, fleeting, primal, essential. On a jejune love affair: "Bare-shouldered and seemingly interested in other things –– the dinner, how to open the wine –– she shied away from me all evening. I did not know enough to take her ear in my teeth, so to speak, to hold tightly and force her to be still."
More so, the multitudes of locale, undercurrent of larger truth in streams of detail: "I have forgotten the names of the concierges at the Inghilterra and the Bauer au Lac, and they have forgotten mine. Images, though, remain, innominate but clear. Driving the roads of southern France –– Béziers, Agde –– the ancient countryside, husbanded for ages. The Romans planted quince trees to mark the corners of their fields; sinewy descendants still grow there. A woman, burnished by sun, walks down the street in the early morning carrying an eel. Many times I have written of this eel, smooth and dying, dark with the mystery of shadowy banks and, on that particular day, covered with bits of gravel. This eel is a saint to me, oblivious, already in another world."