Saturday, October 23, 2010

A MULTITUDE OF SINS: STORIES by Richard Ford (1996) Random House

Before the Opening Night of the International Festival of Authors here in Toronto on Wednesday night, I was already firmly entrenched in my belief that Richard Ford is one of the finest fiction writers scribbling today. Having met him and spent time speaking with him since he headlined the event that I co-chaired to support PEN Canada, I am also besotted with Richard Ford the man. The mensch. And he is one, full stop.

Talking about the role of literature in his life he said, it "gave meaning to my life. Reaching out both ways. You know, that rare understanding between reader & writer?" Well, yes. Don't you? And, "when everyone was telling me about the best in Mississippi during those days of segregation, literature helped me believe in a better place." At its best, literature convinces me of a better place, where others listen, bear witness, act compassionately, are playful, love books.

A MULTITUDE OF SINS is Ford's previous collection of short stories, (he has promised his publisher another forthcoming after his next novel CANADA, mostly penned already) many of which contemplate infidelity and its consequences.

What if you manage to sneak your girlfriend off on a trip to the Grand Canyon without your spouses knowing, but then you find her a little boring, and she just happens to accidentally die there? What then? What if your wife admits to adultery on the way to a dinner party hosted by her lover? What do you do? Do you respond honestly? Do you hold back your true feelings? Are you able to treat her like a lady? What if you still love your husband, but find him straying, yet know that he still loves you?

These are not questions with easy answers, but the way Ford exposes the underlying truths with candor and insight may just encourage you to be more sincere, empathic, passionate and loving to those you desire. Moral ground is messy territory, especially when your sense of right and wrong is put into such vivid relief against the backdrop of a Richard Ford story.

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