LIGHT YEARS: Beneath the shiny surface

Nothing is perfect. A marriage that seems to be unshakable may be just hiding dark cracks beneath a beautifully polished surface. That is one of the things one can learn from James Salter’s classic novel “Light Years”. Originally published in 1975, the book has become a fine example about family dynamics and failed expectations.

Nedra and Vidri form an untouchable couple, parents to two also perfect girls, the four of them lead a dreaming life until reality becomes stronger than appearances. Neither him, nor her is happy person, and the liaison is just kept because it is easier to be together than apart. That is what it seems. They have strong bounds – mostly because of their children. In a tender scene, we see them producing a book about an ell for the children. Nedra thinks the children book that exist are no good. Mother and father are really into completing the task. This is a familiar moment that becomes a remembrance in the far lost past.

As the narratives of “Light Years” moves on, Salter deconstruct the supposed perfect marriage into a group of people falling apart. The parents are so absorbed in their failed relationship that they hardly notice their kids are also a mess – self-destruction runs in the family.

Salter’s language is poetic however direct. The narrative is told in a fractured way, with jump cuts from a time to time. These devices make “Light Years” a sophisticated reading experience. But the best in the novel, the writer’s wise perception of the American marriage. This is a beautiful novel that has an interesting dialogue with Richard Yeats’ “Revolutionary Road“.


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