With The Sportswriter, in 1986, Richard Ford commenced a cycle of novels that ten years laterafter Independence Day won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Awardwas hailed by The Times of London as an extraordinary epic [that] is nothing less than the story of the twentieth century itself. Now, a decade later, Frank Bascombe returns, with a new lease on life (and real estate), more acutely in thrall to lifes endless complexities than ever before.
His story resumes in the autumn of 2000, when his trade as a realtor on the Jersey Shore is thriving, permitting him to revel in the acceptance of that long, stretching-out time when my dreams would have mystery like any ordinary persons; when whatever I do or say, who I marry, how my kids turn out, becomes what the worldif it makes note at allknows of me, how Im seen, understood, even how I think of myself before whatever there is thats wild and unassuagable rises and cheerlessly hauls me off to oblivion. But as a Presidential election hangs in the balance, and a postnuclear-family Thanksgiving looms before him along with crises both marital and medical, Frank discovers that what he terms the Permanent Period is fraught with unforeseen perils: All the ways that life feels like life at age fifty-five were strewn around me like poppies.
A holiday, and a novel, no reader will ever forgetat once hilarious, harrowing, surprising, and profound. The Lay of the Land is astonishing in its own right and a magnificent expansion of one of the most celebrated chronicles of our time.
Toms River, across the Barnegat Bay, teems out ahead of me in the blustery winds and under the high autumnal sun of an American Thanksgiving Tuesday. From the bridge over from Sea-Clift, sunlight diamonds the water below the girdering grid. The white-capped bay surface reveals, at a distance, only a single wet-suited jet-skier plowing and bucking along, clinging to his devil machine as it plunges, wave into steely wave. Wet and chilly, bad for the willy, we sang in Sigma Chi, Dry and warm, big as a babys arm. I take a backward look to see if the NEW JERSEY'S BEST KEPT SECRET sign has survived the tourist seasonnow over. Each summer, the barrier island on which Sea-Clift sits at almost the southern tip hosts six thousand visitors per linear mile, many geared up for sun n fun vandalism and pranksterish grand theft. The sign, which our Realty Roundtable paid for when I was chairman, has regularly ...
Some might ask what the attraction could be in reading about a divorced, middle-aged real-estate agent living in suburban America. The answer is, as always, that it's not what you write about but the way you write it. Ford's strength is in finding epiphanies in the ordinary events of everyday life and in the unexpected emergencies that poor old Frank must inevitably face.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (871 words).
Did you know?
In a recent interview in the Cal Literary Review Ford was asked whether he purposefully set out to portray suburban America in a positive light? To which he replied, "Yes. Originally, my wife said to me, try to write about somebody whos happy. That was my first suggestion. After she said that, I began to think about, well, where could I set a book about somebody who was happy? We were in New Jersey, I was teaching at Princeton then. I thought, well, nobody writes happy things about New Jersey. Nobody writes good things about New Jersey at all. And I thought, well, maybe that would be the thing to do. Write a novel that is affirming about New Jersey because, certainly it would be unusual. And frankly...
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