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.
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).
The New York Time - A. O. Scott
The novel’s lovely last sentence evokes "our human scale upon the land," and that touch of grandiloquence is well earned. By now, we have gotten to know Frank Bascombe well enough to take his measure, and to appreciate that, like almost no one else in our recent literature, he’s life-size.
The Washington Post - Jeff Turrentine
[Frank Bascombe] has become our unlikely Virgil, guiding us through the modern American purgatory of big-box stores along frontage roads, slowly decaying town squares and leafy, secret-harboring suburbs. He's there to remind us that glimmering meaning is hiding everywhere, even in the ugliest or most banal of places.
The Boston Globe - Gail Caldwell
With its profound and full-hearted perception . . . the voice is everything in The Lay of the Land, and it insinuates itself into the reader's consciousness with the sneaky intractability of marriage . . . Eloquently poised between the points of beauty and sorrow [and] so rich--so filled with insight, humor, and stylistic grace--that I didn't want this long and winding trail to end.
Ford manages to become his character and remove authorial boundaries, transforming his novel into a story told to us by an old friend.
Though not as consistently compelling as Independence Day (too many chickens coming home to roost), this reaffirms that Frank Bascombe is for Ford what Rabbit Angstrom is for Updike.
Booklist - Joanne Wilkinson
Starred Review. Ford crafts a mesmerizing narrative voice--one that gives us, with offhanded eloquence and a kind of grim mirth, "the lay of the land."
Starred Review. Ford summons a remarkable voice for his protagonist—ruminant, jaunty, merciless, generous and painfully observant—building a dense narrative from Frank's improvisations, epiphanies and revisions.
The Observer (London) - John Banville
Over the past two decades, Richard Ford has been forging a new way of writing fiction about, and out of, American life that is as revolutionary as Proust's adventures in time travel. Ford is a superb short-story writer, but his masterpiece is the trilogy of novels with Frank Bascombe as their protagonist. Now the great arch is complete by The Lay of the Land, a marvelously subtle, moving and funny account of Frank's present and, it may be, terminal predicament: still selling real estate, still divorced, still abandoned by his second wife, struggling to understand his offspring and suffering from prostate cancer.
The Guardian (London) - Hermione Lee
My great book of the year was Richard Ford’s The Lay of the Land, his Ulysses, a long, painstakingly attentive, humanely comical celebration of the mid-life of his New Jersey real-estate salesman, Frank Bascombe, an American citizen at odds with, and at home in, America, whose story, so wonderfully written in every breath of every sentence, will teach you how to lead a well-examined life 'on the human scale'—and how to leave it.
Financial Times - Jeremy Treglown
One of the many triumphs of Ford's latest novel lies in the paradoxes of what Frank ironically calls the Permanent Period: the overlaps between acceptance and denial and the ways by which hard-won resilience can come to the fore . . . The book vividly communicates the underlying pressures of American provincial life, and of its time, [and its] sense of pace--almost imperceptibly gentle declarations ruptured by startling shifts of gear--is unmatched.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by a retired librarian Frank Bascomb is the most humane character I have encountered in a long time. The Lay of the Land is a fabulous book - funny, human, real.
The characters are multi-faceted and knowable. Frank's
humanity is so appealing, his daily dealing with his cancer
so recognizable and heart-breaking, his relationships... Read More
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 I
liked New Jersey. I didnt fall victim to the bad rap.
In the same interview he was asked why he chose to place his latest volume in
2000 but before the outcome of the election is known. Again, he
says it was a conscious decision as he felt it would be a
recognizable time in the life of most Americans: "A...
John Updikes first collection of new short fiction since the year 2000, My Fathers Tears finds the author in a valedictory mood as he mingles narratives of his native Pennsylvania with stories of New England suburbia and of foreign travel.
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