Monday, November 27, 2006

The Lay of the Land

Richard Ford reads tonight (I kid you not, here in -33C Edmonton!) at Laurie Greenwood’s Volume II Books, at 7:30pm. Volume II is in the High Street area, near 124th Street and 102nd Ave. It isn’t a big place, so get there early to guarantee a spot!

Yes, that Richard Ford. A genuine American literary icon! A Pulitzer winner! Married to a woman who shot a .38 bullet through a book by a critic who dissed one of Ford's novels! Pal of Cormac McCarthy and other tough guy writer types!

Todd Babiak interviewed Ford in the Edmonton Journal recently, noting:
"American novelist Richard Ford is in Canada during the American version of Thanksgiving, that most mythic of holidays. The Lay of the Land, the third and probably final novel tracking the complexities and ruminations of New Jersey real estate agent and amateur philosopher Frank Bascombe, takes place over Thanksgiving. When Ford himself hunts birds for the purposes of eating, an autumn tradition that extends back to Puritan New England, he often does it in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

"I really can't wait to be in Edmonton," Ford said, over the telephone, in that Mississippi-modulated voice that matches Frank's style of jaunty rumination so perfectly that it is difficult to separate the two men, real and imagined. "I wish I was coming tomorrow."

An end-of-November blast of ridiculously cold weather would neither inconvenience Richard Ford nor Frank Bascombe. Like all things beyond our control, weather is really an entrance into the human heart.
As Babiak notes, The Lay of the Land is the third novel focused on Frank Bascombe, following The Sportswriter (1986) and Independence Day (1995). To be perfectly honest, I don't know if I need to know more about Frank Bascombe. I really enjoyed The Sportswriter but found Independence Day overly long and scanty on incident. I remember saying "That's it?" when the big epiphany came! But Ford is a seriously good writer, so everyone should read him. Try one of his stories from his collections like A Multitude of Sins, Women with Men or Rock Springs [*absent from the Library collection at the moment - will be ordered forthwith].


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