Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reading Rainbow: The Sportswriter by Richard Ford

Full disclosure: I finished this book two months ago. I'm not sure why it has taken me this long to get around to this post, but it has. Do not take the fact that it has taken me roughly 10 weeks to get around to this as a reflection of how I felt about the book in any way.

In short, I loved this book. This was my first venture into the writings of Richard Ford, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Independence Day (the sequel to The Sportswriter). He had come pretty highly recommended from a few friends whose literary tastes I trust. Their recommendations are going to be more highly regarded going forward.

The novel follows Frank Bascombe, a writer who has abandoned being a novelist for writing about sports, a subject he is largely indifferent to. It is set against Easter weekend, the weekend marking the anniversary of his son's death at the age of nine and the point at which his life was thrown into a tailspin. Frank is essentially detached in every way imaginable. He even seems to be detached from himself. As he visits his son's grave, heads to Michigan with his girlfriend on a work-related weekend getaway, returns to nondescript suburban New Jersey to have an unhinged friend drop in on him, and his relationship with Vicki disintegrates at a family dinner, Frank Bascombe wanders dreamily through these episodes. Luckily, Ford toes a line that keeps Frank from erring into a territory in which he could come across as irritating or frustrating.

To say that I simply loved this book would be doing a disservice to how I really felt. While reading, I became engulfed in the book. His style floored me. I continuously marveled at his ingenuity in turning a phrase, in the unpredictable ways that his sentences would twist and turn. There seems to be nothing tethering him to the standard usage patterns of the English language. Reading his prose was, quite simply, awe-inspiring. For me to actually want to sit back, take some time, and savor the style of a writer is rare, yet that is precisely what I found myself doing while reading The Sportswriter.

To put it another way, I was so taken by The Sportswriter that I went out and bought four other Ford books as soon as I finished it.

But you don't have to take my word for it...

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