Desire is one of memory’s most potent accelerants. In “Below the House,” C.P. Cavafy recalls passing by the building where “Eros had taken possession of my body/with his exquisite force.” Suddenly, he writes, “everything was made more beautiful by desire’s spell:/ the shops, the pavements, the stones . . . there was nothing ugly that remained there.”
Few American writers pour this carnal jet fuel onto their fiction quite like James Salter. Born in 1925 as James Horowitz, he flew fighter planes in the Korean War, and retired from it in 1957 to write. His novels and short stories feel like relics of a great fire, scorched and reduced to an essence by memories of erotic experience.