Monday, October 11, 2010

THE SPORTSWRITER by Richard Ford (1986)

Having read Ford's Bascombe trilogy in backwards order (because that's the way they arrived from my local library), I feel like I've been time-traveling back to the 80s in the often erudite and always direct company of protagonist Frank Bascombe, the sportswriter of the title.

At 38, Frank is a fairly recent member of the Divorced Men's Club, where he has met men his introspective equal, and one in particular who has become confessional in a way that makes Frank feel a little ill at ease, because the last thing he needs is someone else to worry about.

On this long Easter weekend over which the novel takes place, Frank finds himself facing the great sadness of his own past (the death of his young son Ralph) and longing for "one of the last moments of unalloyed tenderness in the world" that he shared with his then-wife Ann as Ralph died. In the present he finds himself at the table of his girlfriend VIcki's father, a likable man who has found God and even has the life-sized image of His Son hanging outside his suburban home. There Frank receives a call from the police that pushes him away from Vicki and all that she symbolizes and further into himself, stumbling temporarily into the succour offered from the kindness of a stranger.

And, as Frank concludes, "the only truth that can never be a life itself--the thing that happens." Spend time in Frank Bascombe's company. Your eyes will be opened a little wider and you'll be all the richer for it.

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