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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

#93 Finding a new author

Continuing with the 100 life-enriching little nuances series…

During the fall and winter months, my friends and I usually frequent bookstores on Fright nights. What’s not to love about books, conversation and coffee?

Over the years, I’ve spent countless hours wandering up and down the aisles – mostly in the literature section – looking for new authors to read. That’s my main goal anyway. I don’t really look for a new book to read because it’s too much work to find one new book at a time that speaks to me. Of course, there are exceptions, but I’d much rather stumble across a body of work that speaks to me and then dive into it a book at a time. The notion that more books exist within that body of work is almost too delicious to endure and it keeps me reading.

Quite a few years ago, I was in Barnes and Noble one cold Friday night and as my eyes scanned the shelf, I saw a book called The Sportswriter by Richard Ford. As I flipped it over, I learned this about the protagonist: "As a sportswriter, Frank Bascombe makes his living studying people – men mostly – who live entirely within themselves. This is a condition that Frank himself aspires to. But at thirty-eight, he suffers from incurable dreaminess, occasional pounding of the heart, and the not-too-distant losses of a career, a son, and a marriage."

Here was a book written about men, by a man, for men. With a few notable exceptions, that's normally not a combination that works all that well in fiction because men don't read a lot of fiction. According to this NPR article, "Men account for only 20 percent of the fiction market, according to surveys conducted in the U.S., Canada and Britain." My guess is, 99% of that 20% read Tom Clany or John Grisham exclusively.

The thing that appealed to me about The Sportswriter was, the protagonist is a pretty accurate representation of the way men really are, in spite of the fact that most of us seem to prefer to escape this reality in two hour snippets by watching blow 'em up and car chase movies. My guess is, we are into these types of movies (notice I'm not saying books) because we want to escape the realities of life that Ford so accurately depicts through the eyes of Bascombe. I'm not opposed to a little escapism now and then. But I'd much prefer to process along with a character like Bascombe than to escape.

Independence DayWith all of that in mind, going back to the day I originally found The Sportswriter, I was quite pleased to see that Ford already had a body of work. The Sportswriter was the first in a three-book series. The second book, Independence Day, had already been released. I bought it when I was just a few chapters into The Sportswriter because I knew it would speak to me as well. Shortly thereafter, the final book of the series, The Lay of the Land, was released and I bought that as well. I devoured all three books and I've gone on to pick up more of Ford's work.

Recently, I came across these videos of Ford on YouTube in which he drives and walks along the Jersey shore and talks about the series and it's too good not to share with you here. It comes in two parts:


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