‘American Express’ by James SalterPosted: August 2, 2014
The magic trick:
Imparting a memorable idea
Salter is most famous, I gather, for his artfully mannered sentences. That’s nice. I noticed more than a couple here. I wasn’t, however, particularly taken with the story or the characters. It feels very ’80s. What resonated, more than anything, was one particular quote. Frank is extricating himself from a would-be relationship, saying, “Women fall in love when they get to know you. Men are just the opposite. When they finally know you they’re ready to leave.” This is a very deep statement. Is it perhaps total condescending bullshit passed off as it is by the story’s lead creep? Perhaps. But it has stuck with me in the weeks since I read the story and left me debating its philosophical merits. And that’s quite a trick on Salter’s part.
They lay silently. She was starting at something across the room. She was making him feel uncomfortable. “It wouldn’t work. It’s the attraction of opposites,” he said.
“We’re not opposites.”
“I don’t mean just you and me. Women fall in love when they get to know you. Men are just the opposite. When they finally know you they’re ready to leave.”
She got up without saying anything and began gathering her clothes. He watched her dress in silence. There was nothing interesting about it. The funny thing was that he had meant to go on with her.
“I’ll get you a cab,” he said.