Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Lay of the Land

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The Lay of the Land

by Richard Ford

The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2006, 496 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2007, 496 pages

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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 who’s 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 didn’t 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 moment that almost begged for a certain type of reflection that no one had done at the time. That it needed to be showcased in essence as a time of a kind of peculiar moral lethargy in the American culture and in the American populace. The consequences of which were at least the Bush Administration and all of the fiascoes that have come about because of the Bush Administration, and out of a sense of cultural, institutional and governmental doze comes disaster."


Will Frank return at age 65?
When asked whether he plans to revisit Frank in another ten years, Ford replies in the negative: "Frank in his sixties and I’m in my sixties and it’s bad enough to be in my sixties but to have to write about Frank in his sixties, I just couldn’t bear that."

However, he doesn't entirely rule out the possibility that he might write about a younger Frank, before the death of his son, but thinks that it's unlikely as "my whole sense of Frank, the only real potent sense I have of him is of a man whose son has died."

This article was originally published in January 2007, and has been updated for the July 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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