The feelings All That Is
generated in me are similar to my feelings toward my least favorite of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels. That probably means this is actually a good book but I am too shallow to appreciate it.
I did love Salter's writing. The craftsmanship behind the sentences is what kept me reading despite my aversion to the main character, the irritation I felt over the novel's treatment of women (appropriate for the times or deeply symbolic or something, I'm sure), and my boredom over keeping track of all the tertiary characters.
As far as that last item goes, I get it, in real life people pop in and out, but in a novel that I'm picking up and putting down multiple times, it just causes me to need a flowchart to remember who Bowman had sex with, or what he thought of this woman -- for "woman," read: potential sexual partner -- or that random dude in publishing.
Before writing this, I read a review that compared Bowman and All That Is
to Don Draper and Mad Men
, the story of a man in a certain time and place, and I can see that, but I watch Mad Men
grudgingly, knowing I'm going to be bummed out at the end of each episode but watching anyway. Actually, that's an apt comparison, since grudgingly is how I approached this novel once I passed the halfway point and realized I was in for more of the same shallow exploration of one man's search for . . . something.
But the writing! I liked it too much to stop. It is the reason I kept coming back, much like my love for the sets and clothing in Mad Men
compels me to watch each week.
And although, with the exception of a few POV shifts, the novel focuses on one character, it reveals very little of Bowman's inner life; it's all surfaces. Not my favorite kind of thing.
Honestly, I think I was just the wrong reader for this book. I will probably try another of Salter's novels, though, since I liked his writing style so much.