Why aren’t we talking about James Sallis? In fact, why aren’t we talking about Sallis (b. 1944) alongside his American contemporary paranoids and peers, Don DeLillo (b.1936) and Thomas Pynchon (b. 1937)?
Sallis is not the big name that these two are, but he certainly could be. His output is significant and diverse: novels, translations, poetry, short stories, biographies, essays, a pronounced interest in the jazz guitar and its players. His themes are similar to the big two: making sense of the world, and finding our place in it; chronicling the perils of intimacy; thinking about whether we can really know ourselves, or anyone else. Each book is its own world, which Sallis is quite conscious about, though the novels are often barely 200 pages. Sallis is quietly and steadily writing way above his weight class (and on the side, he plays a mean guitar). Or maybe he’s just our anti-Knausgaard, interested in the telling detail but not the whole exhaustive story (I’m mesmerized by the memory of a cockroach crawling over a sink in The Killer is Dying). And certainly not five volumes of it.