Reading guide for All That Is by James Salter

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

All That Is

by James Salter

All That Is by James Salter X
All That Is by James Salter
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2013, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2014, 304 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. All That Is is preceded by an epigraph: "There comes a time when you realize that everything is a dream, and only those things preserved in writing have any possibility of being real." In what ways does this enigmatic statement illuminate the story that follows? Why would it be that only things preserved in writing are "real"?
  2. James Salter has been called "a writer's writer" and praised for the artistry of his sentences. What are the most appealing qualities of Salter's prose style? In what ways does his writing differ from that of most contemporary novelists?
  3. The novel is told primarily from Bowman's point of view, but the narrative shifts perspectives, and the narrator reveals things that Bowman can't know about. What is the effect of Salter switching between viewpoints and keeping a fair authorial distance from his characters?
  4. What kind of man is Philip Bowman? What are his most striking attributes? What drives him? In what ways is he both flawed and honorable? Does he change in any essential way over the course of the novel?
  5. In All That Is Salter eschews a conventional plot in favor of a more episodic, impressionistic, associative structure. What are the pleasures of reading such a narrative? In what ways does it feel closer to the way life actually happens, or is remembered, than a more tightly structured narrative might seem?
  6. Bowman's proposal to Vivian, which takes place in a crowded bar, is decidedly awkward. "What would you think," he asks, "about living here [in New York City]? I mean, we'd be married, of course." Vivian replies: "There's so much noise in here," and then asks, "Was that a proposal?" Bowman says, "It was pitiful, wasn't it? Yes, it's a proposal. I love you. I need you. I'd do anything for you." Vivian never directly accepts. Instead, she says, "We'll have to get Daddy's permission". What does Salter suggest in this scene, simply through dialogue, about Bowman and Vivian's relationship and its chances for success?
  7. Why does Bowman's marriage to Vivian fail? Why is he blind to their incompatibilities?
  8. In the chapter titled "Forgiveness," Bowman has a brief, intense affair with Christine's daughter, Anet, and then abandons her in Paris. "He had forgiven her mother. Come and get your daughter." Why does Bowman exact his revenge on Christine through her daughter? Is his cruelty justified given how Christine treated him? What are the consequences of his actions?
  9. Enid tells Bowman during their second conversation, "I don't think you ever really know anybody." Does the novel itself seem to endorse that view? What instances in the book demonstrate the inability of one person to fully know another?
  10. All That Is begins with the final, harrowing battles of WWII, the kamikaze attacks, the bloody invasion of Okinawa. How does his experience of the war affect Bowman? In what ways does the war provide the defining context for the rest of his life?
  11. The novel is filled with vivid portraits of minor characters—Bowman's war buddies, friends in publishing, lovers, in-laws, publishers, etc. What do these minor characters add to the texture of the narrative? Who are some of the most memorable among them?
  12. How does Bowman regard women? Is he a romantic? What does erotic experience represent for him? What does he love about Vivian, Enid, Christine?
  13. In an interview with The Paris Review, Salter said "I believe there's a right way to live and to die. The people who can do that are interesting to me. I haven't dismissed heroes or heroism." Does All That Is present an ethos or right way of living? Is Philip Bowman heroic?
  14. All That Is concludes with Bowman and Ann planning a trip to Venice. "We'll have a great time," Bowman says. What is the effect of this open-ended ending? Are there any signs that Bowman's relationship with Ann will be any more lasting than his others have been?


Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Vintage. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Small-Town Wonders

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Girl in His Shadow
    The Girl in His Shadow
    by Audrey Blake
    The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake is a fast-paced historical novel set in Victorian-era England...
  • Book Jacket: Whereabouts
    Whereabouts
    by Jhumpa Lahiri
    Jhumpa Lahiri's Whereabouts has seen numerous comparisons to Second Place by Rachel Cusk. These two ...
  • Book Jacket: Swimming Back to Trout River
    Swimming Back to Trout River
    by Linda Rui Feng
    Linda Rui Feng's first novel, Swimming Back to Trout River, is a powerful meditation on the ties ...
  • Book Jacket: The Unfit Heiress
    The Unfit Heiress
    by Audrey Farley
    During the American eugenics movement (see Beyond the Book), involuntary sterilization was used to ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Book of Lost Names
by Kristin Harmel
A heartrending novel of survival, inspired by an astonishing true story from World War II.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Morningside Heights
    by Joshua Henkin

    A tender and big-hearted novel about love in the face of loss, from the award-winning author of The World Without You.

Who Said...

The only completely consistent people are the dead

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

H I T Best P

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.