It wasn't John Cheever I wanted to talk about in that post about sacrifice. John Cheever, who is best known for The Stories of John Cheever, is not the guy who was a pilot in the Korean War and then became a writer. John Cheever died in 1982 and didn't even live to see the birth of the shock jock, let alone podcasts.
Anyway, I wanted to talk about James Salter (James Salter, John Cheever... excusable, right? Not really).
I was looking for literary podcasts to gorge my mind along with my muscles during home workouts and I found one where writers speak about their first draft, but more generally about the writer's craft. I settled on Salter's interview because I have a couple of his books (which I have yet to read) and because, like Cheever, he is known as one of America's most celebrated contemporary writers.
You should listen to the entire interview. It was given in the last year of his life, in 2015, when he was 90 years old. His voice wavers, the timbre is weak, but he speaks with authority as a master of his craft. There were several bits I found caption-worthy, but it was at the end, when he reads a passage from All That Is -his final novel, published in 2013 - where I stopped and replayed.
"One afternoon he passed a shopwindow where a girl in her twenties in black fitted pants was arranging a dress dummy. She was aware of him standing there but she did not look at him. He stood there longer than he wished, he could not take his eyes from her. She, not the shopgirl but someone like her, became his third wife.
What the unseen part of their life was, who can say? ...A certain unwanted coldness at his center kept him from real happiness, and though he married beautiful women, let us say possessed them, it was never complete and yet to live without them was unthinkable.
The great hunger of the past was for food, there was never enough food, and the majority of the people were undernourished or starving, but the new hunger was for sex, there was the same specter of famine without it."
Now, we could do the whole, 'let me tell you what I think of all that', but that I'm writing an entire 200wad post should tell you something already; mainly that I think it's true.
I'm offering this up as a challenge : What do you think about it?
Is sex the new hunger? Does the specter of famine hover over the sexless?