Coax the text and find happiness in a cubicle

by Kelvin Smith

In James Salter’s Light Years, Franca’s parents do not have any easy time of it. Father Viri began to decline when he “became terrified, that moment of terror which cannot be confessed when one realizes one’s own life is nothing.” Her mother Nedra eventually “lived among forgotten episodes, unknown faces bereft of names, closed off from the very world she had created; that was how it came to be. Her children – she must not reveal it to them.”

Perhaps it helps their daughter to make sense of life when she begins work “at a publisher’s, it was a summer job. She answered the telephone and said, ‘Miss Habeeb’s office’“. By the end of the book has “become an editor. She had manuscripts to think about now, to coax into being. She worked in a cubicle that was piled with new books, pictures, clippings, distractions of every sort. She went to meetings, lunches. In the spring she was going to Greece. She was serene, her smile was winning, she did not know the way to happiness but she knew she would arrive there“.

Could it be that coaxing texts into being helps editors fashion their own lives into a palatable form and find the way to happiness – even in a cubicle?

James Salter, Light Years, 1975