What’s Your “White Suit”?: (Fame? A ‘Dream Job’? Romance?) Words of Wisdom from James Salter

James Salter, a lapidarian writer; an inspired writer; an inspiring writer died on June 19th. The author of too few novels, he is most famous for not being famous.

In the flurry of pieces that followed his passing, the quote, below, from an interview in the Guardian with Rupert Thomson, stuck with me:

At the end of our meeting, I asked Salter what he felt about fame. He compared it to a white linen suit. “You’d give anything in the world to have it,” he told me, “and then somebody buys it for you and you don’t wear it very much.”

This idea: that something you have been striving for may not, in fact, be all that and a bag of chips stuck with me.

And while I’m not saying it’s a new concept (Either Theresa of Avila or Truman Capote—depending on your Google search—reminded us that “More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.”) I am saying it’s an idea worth revisiting from time to time—particularly in these dog days of summer when our social media feeds are filled with endless pictures of seemingly carefree friends cavorting in exotic locales where we are not. 

And I would ask you, as I am asking myself, to take a close look at those things that seem so alluring—that appear to be the gateway drug to undiluted happiness—and ask yourself if that dream vacation or job or person is, in fact, your white suit: something you might not end up caring that much about once you have it in-hand.