Sunday, September 12, 2010

THE LAY OF THE LAND by Richard Ford (2007)

It's been ages since I read Richard Ford (not since WOMEN WITH MEN several years ago), but where have I been? Find a finer chronicler of American mid-life anywhere! Yes, of course, Philip Roth and John Updike, but really, for my money, Ford is the man, waving his Pulitzer Prize from the sidelines.

In realtor Frank Bascombe, Ford has created a character as convincing and familiar as your next door neighbour. Maybe because I've watched friends die from cancer and I am firmly middle-aged myself, I find Frank's candour appealing. He's on his second marriage, has two adult children, and has recently been treated at the Mayo clinic with titanium BBs inserted in his prostate, to treat a disease about which he is not surprised at contracting.

Frank IS his name and unabashedly, unashamedly comments on the New Jersey life so familiar to him. We follow him to funerals, take walks along the beach in stride with him and his lesbian daughter, and worry about getting through the demands of a capital T Thanksgiving with all of the trimmings.

THE LAY OF THE LAND is harrowing, profound and outright hilarious at times. I now know what I've been missing and plan to reach back to the earlier books in the trilogy, THE SPORTSWRITER (1986) and INDEPENDENCE DAY (1995) to marvel again at the words of a writer who continues to hone his craft.

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