We first met Richard Ford's "everyman" Frank Bascombe back in 1986 when
Ford published The Sportswriter. A decade later Frank returned in
Independence Day, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the
PEN/Faulkner Award. A further decade later he is back - it's Fall 2000,
the country is in the wake of a presidential election and Frank's contending
with health and family issues. As in the previous two novels, Ford continues his seasonal theme: The Sportswriter revolved around Easter, resurrecting Frank's
memories of his dead son, broken marriage and failed literary career. The action in
Independence Day took place over a Fourth of July weekend. Now
55-year-old Frank is facing the Thanksgiving holiday weekend which will deliver
him more punches than he's ever had to absorb before.
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.
"My great book of the year was Richard Fords 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." - The Guardian.
Richard Ford lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, where his wife, Kristina, is the head of the city planning commission. He travels frequently and also spends time on a plantation in the Mississippi Delta and at his cabin in Chinook, Montana (more).
This review 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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