cover image LAST NIGHT


James Salter, . . Knopf, $20 (144pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-4312-5

Teetering marriages, collapsing relationships and other calamities of the heart drive these 10 compact, unsettling stories by respected writer Salter (A Sport and a Pastime , etc.). The title story is especially impressive—when Walter Much and his seriously ill wife, Marit, agree that he will assist in her suicide, Marit insists that Susanna, a mutual friend, come over to keep them company in her final moments. Nothing goes as planned, however, and Walter's double betrayal of his wife ushers in the haunting conclusion. The reunion stories are equally compelling: in "Palm Court," a man who initially failed to marry the love of his life meets her years later after her divorce only to find himself overwhelmed and distraught by the mixed feelings she rouses in him. "Bangkok" offers a different take on the reunion angle, as a woman tries to tempt an old flame into joining her and her female traveling companion on a sexually adventurous, last-second trip to the Far East, despite his being happily married and claiming to be satisfied with his sedate, settled life. The reserved, elegiac nature of Salter's prose and his mannered, well-bred characters lend the collection a distanced tone, but at their best these are stirring stories, worthy additions to a formidable body of work. Agent, ICM. (Apr. 25)