I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Richard Ford

Continuing with our Top Ten Series featuring my favorite authors:

#8: Richard Ford

Richard Ford is the consummate character-driven novelist. And I love that about him. His critics say that his characters spend their lives in their heads and that they need to get out a little more. I suspect that most of those people are plot-driven fiction fans. I’m not one of those people. I love to be part of a protagonist’s internal wars—to see the way he processes information and emotion.

I read The Sportswriter a few years ago and was really taken with Ford’s protagonist, Frank Bascombe—a divorced, middle-aged sportswriter who seems more content in his discontentedness than anybody ought to, but he has a way of looking at life that intrigues me. About a third of the way into the book, he’s contemplating a new relationship and wondering if he can really trust his instincts again. Here are his thoughts:

“I have relinquished a great deal. I’ve stopped worrying about being completely within someone else since you can’t be anyway—a pleasant unquestioning mystery has been the result. I’ve also become less sober-sided and “writerly serious,” and worry less about the complexities of things, looking at life in more simple and literal ways.”

He continues a little later on:

“When you are fully in your emotions, when they are simple and appealing enough to be in, and the distance is closed between what you feel and what you might also feel, then your instincts can be trusted. It is the difference between a man who quits his job to become a fishing guide on Lake Big Trout, and who one day as he is paddling his canoe into the dock at dusk, stops paddling to admire the sunset and realizes how much he wants to be a fishing guide on Lake Big Trout; and another man who has made the same decision, stopped paddling at the same time, felt how glad he was, but also thought he could probably be a guide on Windigo Lake if he decided to, and might also get a better deal on canoes.”

How good is that? How few people ever reach a point where they are able to do the very thing they desire to do and then are able to bask in the realization that they made the perfect choice?

Ford wrote a sequel to The Sportswriter, called Independence Day that covers a later period of time in Bascombe’s life. I’ve written quite a bit about the book here, here, here and here. Obviously, since I’ve written four posts about one book, I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed the first book in the series. Just recently, Ford released the third and final book in the series, called The Lay of the Land. I can’t wait to buy it and read it. I usually wait for the paperback version of most books, but I may break down and buy this one in hardback.

I find Ford’s books to be slow reads. Not because they are bad, but because so many of the pages are full of characters living inside of themselves that I can’t just plow through them. I find myself thinking and feeling along with the characters and that’s a bit draining. I’m not complaining in the least though. I love a book that makes me think and feel deeply.


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